1. These are four references made by the Revising Authority under Section 11 of the U. P. Sales Tax Act. The question common to each reference is 'whether betel leaves fall under the category of green vegetables
2. The assessees are dealers in betel leaves, and Section 3 of the U. P. Sales Tax Act, 1948, provides that, subject to the provisions of that Act, every dealer shall in each assessment year pay sales tax on his turnover of the previous year. Section 4 provides however that no tax shall be payable, inter alia, on such goods which the State Government may by a Notification in the Official Gazette exempt from time to time ; and on the 7th June, 1948, the State Government issued a Notification exempting from the provisions of the Act various classes of goods including as item No. 4 'green vegetables and fresh fruits'. The assessees contend that betel leaves are fresh vegetables within the meaning of this exemption,
3. Now the word vegetable is capable of being used in two senses; generally, as meaning a living organism belonging to the vegetable kingdom, and more particularly as a plant cultivated for food. We can entertain no doubt that it is in this latter sense that the word is used in the Notification, for in addition to exempting fresh fruits the Notification exempts cereals and pulses (Item No. 1), atta, maida, suji and bran (Item No. 2), certain kinds, of edible oils (Item No. 5) and groundnuts (Item No. 12) to which no reference would have been necessary had the word 'vegetable' been used in its wider sense. 'Green' also is a word with more than one meaning, but in our opinion it is used in the Notification not as an adjective of colour but figuratively, as meaning young and tender in contrast to 'dried'.
4. This conclusion is indeed not seriously challenged by learned counsel whose main argument is that betel leaves are in fact an article of food. This submission we are unable to accept, for although betel leaves may, as learned counsel has said, occasionally be eaten by certain persons as an article of diet, there is no evidence before us to show that this use of the leaf is otherwise than rare. On the other hand, it is we think a matter of common knowledge that betel leaves are ordinarily consumed not for their food value but. as a masticatory or as an aid to digestion. The betel leaf is so referred to in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the learned standing counsel has drawn our attention to Monier-Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary where the leaf is stated to be eaten or chewed as a carminative and antacid tonic (see tit. Tambula).
5. Learned counsel contend however that the fact that some persons, even if only a few, eat betel leaves as an article of food, is enough to bring these leaves into the category of 'green vegetables'. The question is however to determine what the legislature intended, and looking at the list of exemptions as a whole we are of opinion that 'green vegetables' in the present context means such fresh vegetables as are ordinarily grown in kitchen gardens for use at the table. This is also the view taken by the Nagpur High Court in Madhya Pradesh Pan Merchants Association v. State of Madhya Pradesh A.I.R. 1956 Nag. 54 and is in conformity with the conclusion reached in Kokil Ram v. Province of Bihar A.I.R. 1951 Pat. 367 and by Mr. Justice Chaturvedi in Brahmanand v. The State of U. P. (1966) A.W.R. 136. We accordingly answer the question which has been referred to us in the negative.
6. The assessees must pay the cost of these references which we assess at Rs. 100 in each case.