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The Public Prosecutor Vs. Natakala Janakirama Chetty and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax;Criminal
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 447 of 1958
Reported in[1959]10STC568(AP)
AppellantThe Public Prosecutor
RespondentNatakala Janakirama Chetty and anr.
Appellant AdvocateD. Sivarama Krishna, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateT. Bali Reddy, ;O. Chinnappa Reddy ;and C. Padmanabha Reddy, Advs.
DispositionAppeal allowed
.....with sub-rule (3) by the tenant. the payment or deposit of rent under section 11 read with sub-rule (6) of rule 5 arises only in respect of a tenant who did not take recourse to section 8 or section 9 before an application for eviction has been made against him in respect of any rent in arrears by date of that application, whereas in respect of rent that becomes subsequently due since date of application for eviction, the tenant is bound to pay or deposit regularly until termination of proceedings in order to enable him to contest the application. any violation of section 11(1) to (3) and sub-rule (6) of rule 5 makes the tenant liable for the adverse consequences under sub-section (4) of section 11. thus, the provisions of section 11 and sub-rule (6) of rule 5 are intended only to..........needed.2. it will be convenient at this stage to read the relevant provisions of the act and the rules. rule 45(1) and rule 64 are in the following terms :rule 45. (1) every person licensed or registered under this act ... shall keep and maintain a true and correct account in any of the languages specified in the eighth schedule to the constitution or in english showing-(i) the value of the goods produced, manufactured, bought and sold by him, and(ii) the name and address of each of the persons from whom goods were purchased, supported by a bill or delivery note issued by the seller and duly signed and dated.rule 64. 'whoever commits breach of any of the following rules, namely rules 30(13), 45, 51, 52, 53, 54 and 61 shall, on conviction by a magistrate of the first class, be.....

Krishna Rao, J.

1. This is an appeal by the Public Prosecutor against the acquittal of the respondents. The two respondents are the partners of a firm of registered dealers doing business in cloth at Chittoor. The charge against them was that they committed a breach of Clause (i) of Rule 45(1) of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Rules, 1957, read with Section 25 of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act (VI of 1957) and were therefore punishable under Rule 64 of the said rules. The charge was based on the fact that on 26th August, 1957, when their shop was inspected by the Commercial Tax Officer (P.W. 1) and the Deputy Commercial Tax Officer (P.W. 2), it was found that they had not entered in their day book (exhibit P-7) (1) items 12 and 24 to 36 of the cloth purchased under a bill (exhibit P-4) dated 5th August, 1957; (2) all the items purchased under a bill (exhibit P-5) dated 22nd August, 1957 ; and (3) all the items purchased under a third bill (exhibit P-6) dated 10th August, 1957. The defence was that they did not enter items 12 and 24 to 36 of exhibit P-4, because the weavers who supplied them did not turn up at the shop and the purchase money could not therefore be paid to them. In regard to exhibits P-5 and P-6, the defence was that the practice of the firm was to enter the goods in the accounts only after checking them with the invoices. The goods covered by exhibit P-5 were received only on 23rd August, 1957, and the accused's version was that the parcel was opened and inspected just before the visit of P.Ws-1 and 2 on 26th August, 1957. The parcel containing the goods covered by exhibit P-6 was received on 14th August, 1957, and remained unopened in the shop as the goods were not immediately needed.

2. It will be convenient at this stage to read the relevant provisions of the Act and the rules. Rule 45(1) and Rule 64 are in the following terms :

Rule 45. (1) Every person licensed or registered under this Act ... shall keep and maintain a true and correct account in any of the languages specified in the eighth schedule to the Constitution or in English showing-

(i) the value of the goods produced, manufactured, bought and sold by him, and

(ii) the name and address of each of the persons from whom goods were purchased, supported by a bill or delivery note issued by the seller and duly signed and dated.Rule 64. 'Whoever commits breach of any of the following rules, namely Rules 30(13), 45, 51, 52, 53, 54 and 61 shall, on conviction by a Magistrate of the first class, be punishable with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

These rules are framed under Section 39 of the Act, the material portions of which are:-

39. (1) The State Government may make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for-

(h) the maintenance of purchase bills or accounts of purchases and sales by dealers carrying on business in specified goods and the time for which they should be preserved.

(3) In making a rule under Sub-Section (1) or Sub-Section (2), the State Government may provide that a person guilty of a breach thereof, shall, on conviction by a Magistrate of the first class, be liable to be punished with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

Section 25 of the Act runs thus:-

25. Every person licensed or registered under this Act, every dealer liable to get himself registered under this Act, and every other dealer who is required so to do by the prescribed authority by notice served in the prescribed manner, shall keep and maintain a true and correct account in any of the languages specified in the eighth schedule to the Constitution, or in English, showing such particulars as may be prescribed ; and different particulars may be prescribed for different classes of dealers.

3. It is conceded that no forms for the accounts to be maintained have been prescribed. Nor have the particulars to be mentioned in them been specified beyond what is contained in Rule 45. The learned Public Prosecuto- states that such accounts as are maintained by the dealers are checked by the Commercial Tax Officers to verify whether the rule has been complied with.

4. It will be seen that for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of Clause (i) of Rule 45(1), (1) the account must show the value of the goods produced, manufactured, bought and sold by the dealer; (2) it must be true and correct; and (3) it must be kept and maintained in one of the authorised languages. Although Rule 64 makes any breach of Rule 45 punishable, as it has been framed under Section 39(3), it must be taken to mean that the person must be guilty of a breach. The natural meaning of the word 'guilty' imports culpability. In other words, the breach of the rule must be blameworthy. This is all that might be said to be required for incurring liability for punishment under the rule. Thus, for instance, if the value of the goods purchased could not be ascertained or if there is a bona fide mistake in making the entries or if the accounts could not be kept owing to some accident or misfortune (vide Section 80 read with Section 40, Indian Penal Code) the breach of Rule 45(1) would not be punishable.

5. It was contended on behalf of the respondents, with success before the learned Magistrate, that as the rules do not prescribe a time within which the entries have to be made, it would be sufficient if the entries are made before the goods are sold. Such a construction would practically read the words 'bought and sold' in Clause (i) of Rule 45 (1) in combination with each other. It is not disputed by the learned counsel here that they have to be read disjunctively. Whenever goods are bought, the duty to keep and maintain an account showing their value arises under the rule. In my opinion, the natural meaning of the words 'keep and maintain' is that the account should be kept up-to-date. To strain their meaning as allowing a margin or time would result in leaving a broad loophole for the goods bought not being brought into account at all and escaping the tax. As the rules do not expressly allow any time for making the entries after the goods are bought, the duty of the dealer is to enter the value of the goods in his account as soon as they are bought.

6. The learned Magistrate also held that Rule 48, which gives the power of seizure and confiscation, refers to the goods of the dealer 'which have not been accounted for in his accounts, registers or other documents', the maintaining of a bill like exhibit P-4 was a sufficient compliance with Rule 45. But Rule 45 itself mentions separately 'accounts, registers or other documents'. Obviously, keeping a loose document is not treated, as keeping an account even in Rule 48. More-Over, a bill or delivery note issued by the seller is separately required by Clause (11) of Rule 45(1). Keeping bills like exhibit P-4 can by no means be construe'd as keeping an account contemplated by Rule 45(1). The learned Magistrate was manifestly in error when he held that by keeping exhibit P-4 in the shop, the respondents had complied with the rule.

7. So far as exhibits P-5 and P-6 are concerned, Sri T. Bali Reddy for the respondents, pointed out that full particulars of the railway receipts relating to them were entered in the 'railway receipt book' (exhibit D-8). He further pointed out that there are entries (exhibits D-6 and D-7) in the daybook, showing the incidental expenses connected with the consignment. But neither the railway receipt book nor the daybook entries (exhibits D-6 and D-7) mention the value of the goods. It follows that they are of no avail to show compliance with Rule 45.

8. Another point stressed on behalf of the respondents is that the practice of entering the goods in the daybook after the weavers are actually paid was not previously objected to by the Commercial Tax Officers. Although this was stated by D.W. 2 in his evidence, it was not specifically put either to P.W. 1 or to P.W. 2. Sri T. Bali Reddy relies on the answers elicited from P.W. 2 in cross-examination :

It is a practice for the master weavers to bring goods to the dealers and the dealers make selections at their shop and then value their value. The dealers also send their men to purchase cloth in the shandies at Ekambarkuppam, Nagiri, Chatravada, Narayanavaram etc., places.

9. Admittedly, the transaction under exhibit P-4 was of the category mentioned in the second sentence. D.W. 2 purchased the goods on behalf of the respondents and deposited them with D.W. 1 who despatched them to the respondents. There is absolutely nothing in the evidence to indicate that in regard to this category of transactions the purchases by the respondents were not completed immediately on taking delivery from the weavers.

10. With regard to exhibits P-5 and P-6, Sri T. Bali Reddy also relied on P.W. 2's answer, 'Anyhow verification is necessary before the goods are brought to account'. This is undoubtedly correct, because without verification it would be difficult to make true and correct entries in the accounts which is required by the rule. But it does not mean that the respondents can take their own time for verification of the goods. The question for consideration is whether the respondents have complied with Rule 45(1). It is no answer to say that the Commercial Tax Officers did not take action against them for non-compliance on previous occasions or that the respondents have to take some preliminary steps before it is possible to make the necessary entries in the accounts.

11. It was finally urged by Sri T. Bali Reddy that the respondents are not shown to have had any intention to evade the tax. He urged that mens rea has to be proved in all criminal cases and relied in this connection on Srinives Mall v. Emperor (1947) A.I.R. 1947 P.C. 135. and Hariprasada Rao v. The State (1951) A.I.R. 1951 S.C. 204. But these were cases in which the question of mens rea arose for consideration in connection with vicarious liability. As observed by Wills, J., in The Queen v. Tolson 23 Q.B.D. 168 at page 172:

Although prima facie and as a general rule there must be a mind at fault before there can be a crime, it is not an inflexible rule, and a statute may relate to such a subject-matter and may be so framed as to make an act criminal whether there has been any intention to break the law or otherwise to do wrong or not. There is a large body of municipal law in the present day which is so'conceived. Bye-laws are constantly made regulating the width of thoroughfares, the height of buildings, the thickness of walls, and a variety of other matters necessary for the general welfare, health, or convenience, and such bye-laws are enforced by the sanction of penalties, and the breach of them constitutes an offence and is a criminal matter. In such cases it would, generally speaking, be no answer to proceedings for infringement of the bye-law that the person committing it had bona fide made an accidental miscalculation or an erroneous measurement. The acts are properly construed as imposing the penalty when the act is done, no matter how innocently, and in such a case the substance of the enactment is that a man shall take care that the statutory direction is obeyed, and that if he fails to do so he does it at his peril.

12. In Maxwell's book on the Interpretation of Statutes, 10th edition, the learned editors summarise the position thus at-page 110:'It is necessary, as regards mens rea, not to confound innocence in the legal sense with a good conscience. Whatever may be the motive, an intention to do an act prohibited by the penal provision of a statute constitutes mens rea.

13. The contention that the prosecution has to prove that the respondents' object was to evade sales tax cannot prevail. The mens rea for the purpose of Rule 64 consists in not taking proper care to see that the duties enjoined by the rules concerned are performed.

14. The facts establish that the purchases of the goods by the respondents were completed on the dates of exhibits P-4 to P-6 and nothing prevented them from maintaining an account of the value of the goods after obtaining delivery except dilatory practices which they set up for their own convenience. It is clear that they are guilty of a breach of Rule 45(1) and are liable to punishment under Rule 64. I find them guilty under Rule 64 read with Rule 45(1) of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax rules.

15. On the question of the sentence, there is considerable force in the plea of Sri T. Bali Reddy on their behalf that they were misled by no objection having been previously taken to the practice which they followed. The offence may be regarded as technical, inasmuch as no oblique motive has been alleged by the prosecution. The respondents are each sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 25 with simple imprisonment for one week in default. Time for payment of fine one month.

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