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industrial Chemical Corporation Vs. Commissioner of Sales Tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSales Tax Reference No. 478 of 1971
Judge
Reported in[1973]30STC172(All)
Appellantindustrial Chemical Corporation
RespondentCommissioner of Sales Tax
Appellant Advocate G.P. Bhargava and ; A.N. Bhargava, Advs.
Respondent Advocate The Standing Counsel
Excerpt:
- - ), the supreme court observed :but it is now well-settled that while interpreting items in statutes like the sales tax acts, resort should be had not to the scientific or the technical meaning of such terms but to their popular meaning or the meaning attached to them by those dealing in them, that is to say, to their commercial sense. generally, the dictionaries like the shorter oxford dictionary, give various word meanings including the meanings which are popularly attached to a word. learned counsel contends that this classification clearly shows that trade in this country does not consider calcium carbide to be a chemical......it also dealt in carbide of calcium. for the assessment year 1963-64 its turnover in respect of calcium carbide, imported from outside u.p., was determined 'at rs. 63,720.93. the sales tax officer assessed this turnover to tax amounting to rs. 4,460.47 by applying the rate of 7 per cent, as provided in notification no. st. 3391/x-1012/1962 dated 1st july, 1962, treating calcium carbide as a chemical.2. the assessee went up in appeal claiming that calcium carbide is not a chemical within the meaning of that notification and that its turnover should have been assessed to tax at the rate of 2 per cent, as an unclassified item. the assistant commissioner (judicial), who heard the appeal, came to the conclusion that when calcium carbide is brought into contact with water, it reacts to it.....
Judgment:

S.N. Seth, J.

1. The assessee, Messrs. Industrial Chemical Corporation, Ghaziabad, carried on business in paints, marble chips, white cement, coal-tar, etc. It also dealt in carbide of calcium. For the assessment year 1963-64 its turnover in respect of calcium carbide, imported from outside U.P., was determined 'at Rs. 63,720.93. The Sales Tax Officer assessed this turnover to tax amounting to Rs. 4,460.47 by applying the rate of 7 per cent, as provided in Notification No. ST. 3391/X-1012/1962 dated 1st July, 1962, treating calcium carbide as a chemical.

2. The assessee went up in appeal claiming that calcium carbide is not a chemical within the meaning of that notification and that its turnover should have been assessed to tax at the rate of 2 per cent, as an unclassified item. The Assistant Commissioner (Judicial), who heard the appeal, came to the conclusion that when calcium carbide is brought into contact with water, it reacts to it and emits acetylene. It was therefore a chemical within the meaning of the notification. Its turnover had therefore been rightly assessed to tax at the rate of 7 per cent. The assessee then filed an application in revision before the revising authority contending that calcium carbide was in fact a fuel used for welding. It was an unclassified item and its turnover should have been assessed to tax accordingly. The revising authority rejected this contention and held that when calcium carbide is brought into contact with water it emanates acetylene gas. It is this gas which may be called fuel. Calcium carbide, which is an article used for generating gas, is a chemical and its turnover had been rightly assessed to tax at the rate of 7 per cent.

3. At the instance of the assessee, the Additional Judge (Revisions) has referred the following question for the opinion of this court:

Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, calcium carbide is taxable as chemical under Notification No. ST. 3391/X-1012/ 1962 dated 1st July, 1962, or as an unclassified item?

4. According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, a chemical means anything obtained or used in chemistry. It will, within its ambit, cover a substance which is used for producing chemical effect or is produced by a chemical process. Encyclopaedia Britannica describes calcium carbide as a chemical substance in which carbon is combined with a metallic or a semi-metallic element. According to it, calcium carbide (CaC2) is one of the most important, carbides and it is used for generation of acetylene. It is therefore clear that as per the dictionary meaning calcium carbide is a chemical.

5. In Commissioner of Sales Tax, M.P. v. Jaswant Singh Charan Singh [1967] 19 S.T.C. 469 (S.C.), the Supreme Court observed :

But it is now well-settled that while interpreting items in statutes like the Sales Tax Acts, resort should be had not to the scientific or the technical meaning of such terms but to their popular meaning or the meaning attached to them by those dealing in them, that is to say, to their commercial sense.

6. Similarly in Ramavatar Budhaiprasad v. Assistant Sales Tax Officer [1961] 12 S.T.C. 286 (S.C.), the Supreme Court, while considering whether betel leaves were vegetables within the meaning of that expression in the Schedule to the C. P. and Berar Sales Tax Act, 1947-, held that the expression 'vegetables'.must be construed not in any technical sense nor from the botanical point of view but as understood in common parlance. It has not been denned in the Act and being a word of every day use it must be construed in its popular sense meaning 'that sense which people conversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing would attribute to it.' It is to be construed as understood in common language.

7. It is, therefore, clear that the expression chemical as used in the notification has not to be construed in a hypertechnical or scientific mariner. It has to be construed in the manner in which it is generally understood. Generally, the dictionaries like the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, give various word meanings including the meanings which are popularly attached to a word. Unless there is some special reason to think that persons dealing in an article understand a word describing a commodity in a notification in a different sense, the expression used in the notification should be understood in one of the ways mentioned in the dictionary that is most appropriate in the context. Viewed in this light, we are of opinion that apart from other articles which may also be chemicals, articles which are generally used for producing chemical effect would 'be covered by that expression unless there is something to show that the trade and commerce in this country understands the expression chemical in some other sense.

8. In Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Prayag Chemical Works [1970] 25 S.T.C. 85 (F.B.), a Full Bench of this court had an occasion to consider whether sodium silicate could be called a chemical. In this connection at page 91 it. was observed as follows:

A dealer selling chemicals offers them for sale because he considers them saleable. They are saleable because they can be the subject of use or consumption or profit to a prospective buyer, and that depends upon their properties. A commodity is offered for sale as a chemical because of its chemical properties. Therefore, the entry 'chemicals of all kinds' refers to those commodities which because of their chemical properties prompt a dealer to offer them for sale and induce a purchaser to buy them.

9. Before the sales tax authorities it was the assessee's own case that calcium carbide is used by welders who put it in a cylinder containing water. Due to moisture, it produces acetylene gas which is passed through tubes and is mixed with oxygen. This mixture when ignited produces intense heat necessary for welding operation. It cannot be disputed that when calcium carbide is brought into contact with water, a chemical process yielding acetylene gas takes place. It is, therefore, known to the trade that this product is sold and purchased because of its chemical properties. There is no reason to think that the trade understands 'chemicals' in a sense different from what has been mentioned above. It follows that calcium carbide is a chemical within the meaning of that notification.

10. Sri G. P. Bharghiva, learned counsel for the assessee, produced before us the telephone directory of Delhi, which contains a classified list of names, addresses, telephone numbers and other details for various trades and professions arranged in alphabetical order of classification. He points out that in this list, under the head. Chemicals, Chemicals and Dyes, Chemical Laboratory, Chemical Mill Suppliers and Chemical Solvents Intermediates, none of the dealers are shown to be dealing in calcium carbide. On the other hand, under the heading welding machines, accessories and spare parts, one of the stockists has been shown as dealing in calcium carbide. Learned counsel contends that this classification clearly shows that trade in this country does not consider calcium carbide to be a chemical. It, on the other hand, treats it as welding machine accessory and spare part. We are unable to accept this argument. We are not convinced that the classification list in a telephone directory can be used in support of the argument advanced by the learned counsel. This list has not been drawn up with the object of classifying goods as understood by the trade. Its object is to generally classify trades and professions and then mention the names and telephone numbers of the traders along with a brief description of the articles and types of things in which they trade. A class of goods can be dealt with by different traders belonging to different classes. In the circumstances, merely because a trader under the head welding machines and spare parts is shown to be dealing in calcium carbide it does not mean that calcium carbide is not dealt with as a chemical. So far as the omission of calcium carbide in the list of articles being dealt with, by traders classified under the heading chemists, etc., is concerned, as observed earlier, the list contains only a brief description of the articles dealt with by a trader. We find that some of the traders classified under the head chemicals, etc., have been shown to be dealing in specified articles or chemicals. In the case of other dealers, however, merely a general description of the types of chemicals in which they deal has been mentioned. It is, therefore, not possible to construe that apart from the chemicals which find mention as articles in which one or the other trader mentioned in the list deals, the trade does not recognise as chemical any other article. Moreover, the names of traders are brought in the classified list at their own request. There may be so many other traders who have not cared to get their names inserted in this list. It is therefore, not possible to accept that: merely because none of the traders shown under that head are shown to be dealing in calcium carbide, there is no other dealer in chemicals who deals in calcium carbide. We, there-fore, do not accept that the classified list in the telephone directory of Delhi establishes that the trade in this country does not treat calcium carbide as a chemical or that it understands the expression chemical in a sense other than that stated by us above.

11. Learned counsel then urged that calcium carbide is in fact used by welders for creating heat and it is therefore fuel. The trade also understands it as such. We are unable to accept this submission. As mentioned above, it is clear to the trade that calcium carbide is a substance which is used for producing acetylene gas by subjecting it to a chemical reaction with water. What is used as a fuel by the welders is not. calcium carbide but a mixture of oxygen and acetylene gas. It is not possible to classify either calcium carbide or water, the two substances which chemically react to produce acetylene gas, as fuel.

12. Accordingly, we answer the question referred to us in favour of the Commissioner of Sales Tax as follows :

Calcium carbide is taxable as chemical under Notification No. ST. 3391/X-1012/1962 dated 1st July, 1962, and not as an unclassified item.

13. Commissioner of Sales Tax is entitled to receive costs of this reference from the dealer which we assess at Rs. 100.


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