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Dhingra Mechanical Works Vs. Commissioner of Sales Tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case Number S.T.R. No. 22 of 1971
Judge
Reported in[1972]29STC238(All)
AppellantDhingra Mechanical Works
RespondentCommissioner of Sales Tax
Appellant Advocate R.C. Sharma, Adv.
Respondent Advocate Standing Counsel
Excerpt:
.....revision. 6. this proviso, in our opinion, clearly casts a duty upon the assessing authority to adjust the refund due to an assessee towards the outstanding liability of tax or penalty, etc. under this proviso, there is a provision for an automatic adjustment so thai in a case like the present one, there shall be deemed to have taken place an automatic adjustment of the amount refundable to the assessee against his liability of admitted tax. 8. the provision for such an adjustment is clearly contained in section 29, and it is obvious that that provision was not brought to the notice of the learned judge. there is a well-known maxim de minimis non curat lex which means that the law does not take notice of trifles. 95. nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended..........year involved is 1964-65. the assessee filed an appeal against the assessment, order. the assessee had admitted the liability to tax to the extent of rs, 2,583.56, but he deposited a sum of rs. 2,583.53. thus there was a shortage of three paise.2. it was contended on behalf of the department before the appellate authority that the appeal was not competent, because the assessee had not deposited in full the admitted tax. the appellate authority found that a sum of rs. 620 was refundable to the assesse from the department. in its opinion the shortage of three paise could very well be adjusted against the refund due to the assessee and as such the appeal could not be said to be incompetent. the department was not satisfied and went up in revision. the revising authority has upheld.....
Judgment:

R.L. Gulati, J.

1. This is a reference under Section 11(1) of the U.P. Sales Tax Act. The assessee is a dealer in iron furniture and other furniture goods. The assessment year involved is 1964-65. The assessee filed an appeal against the assessment, order. The assessee had admitted the liability to tax to the extent of Rs, 2,583.56, but he deposited a sum of Rs. 2,583.53. Thus there was a shortage of three paise.

2. It was contended on behalf of the department before the appellate authority that the appeal was not competent, because the assessee had not deposited in full the admitted tax. The appellate authority found that a sum of Rs. 620 was refundable to the assesse from the department. In its opinion the shortage of three paise could very well be adjusted against the refund due to the assessee and as such the appeal could not be said to be incompetent. The department was not satisfied and went up in revision. The revising authority has upheld the objection of the department and has held that because the assessee had tailed to pay in full the admitted tax, the appeal had been wrongly entertained by the appellate authority. The present reference has been submitted by the revising authority at the instance of the assessee and the following two questions of law have been referred:

(1) Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the revising authority was justified in law to set aside the appellate order and restore the assessment order for the year 1964-65,

(2) Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case the petitioner's appeal was rightly entertained and decided by the appellate authority under the provisions of Section 9 of the U.P. Sales Tax Act.

3. Section 9 deals with appeals. The first proviso to Section 9 states 'that no appeal against an assessment shall be entertained unless it is accompanied by satisfactory proof of the payment of the amount of tax admitted by the appellant to be due....' The short question that arises is whether in the circumstances of the present case it could be said that the assessee had paid the admitted tax for purposes of the first proviso to Section 9.

4. It is admitted that a sum of Rs. 620 was due to the assessee from the sales tax department, and he was entitled to the refund of that amount. It is also admitted that he applied for the refund by way of adjustment towards his tax liability on 30th April, 1964, at the time of filing the fourth quarterly return for the assessment year in question. The adjustment was not made. It appears that there is no dispute about the amount or the right of the assessee to its refund. It is also admitted that had the adjustment been made, there would have been no shortage as the shortage of three paise would have been wiped out. We are of opinion that in the facts and in the circumstances of the case the revising authority was not right in taking the view that because of the shortage in the deposit of the admitted tax, the appeal was incompetent.

5. Section 29 of the Act deals with refund. That section provides that the assessing authority shall refund to a dealer any amount of tax, fees or other dues paid in excess of the amount due from him under the Act. The proviso attached to this section reads :

Provided that the amount found to be refundable shall first be applied towards the tax or any other amount outstanding against the dealer and only the balance, if any, shall be refunded.

6. This proviso, in our opinion, clearly casts a duty upon the assessing authority to adjust the refund due to an assessee towards the outstanding liability of tax or penalty, etc. When a tax liability is to be discharged by an assessee, he can ask the Sales Tax Officer to adjust against such liability any amount which may be refundable to him. Under this proviso, there is a provision for an automatic adjustment so thai in a case like the present one, there shall be deemed to have taken place an automatic adjustment of the amount refundable to the assessee against his liability of admitted tax.

7. The revising authority has relied on a decision of this court in /. K. Jute Mills Co. Ltd. v. Sales Tax Officer II, Kanpur [1967] 19 S.T.C. 339. That was a case under Section 8 of the Act. A learned single Judge of this court held that under Section 8 the tax assessed upon a dealer had to be deposited and the assessee was not entitled to any adjustment as a matter of right, if any amount was refundable to Him. It appears that the attention of the court was not invited to Section 29. This is clear from the following observations:

My attention has not been drawn to any provision in the U.P. Sales Tax Act, or the Rules made thereunder, entitling a dealer to an adjustment as of right of his tax liability against refunds due to him.

8. The provision for such an adjustment is clearly contained in Section 29, and it is obvious that that provision was not brought to the notice of the learned Judge.

9. There is another reason why in this case the assessee should be held not to have committed any default in the payment of the admitted tax. The shortage is only of three paise which is much too trivial to be taken notice of. There is a well-known maxim de minimis non curat lex which means that the law does not take notice of trifles. An illustration of this principle is to be found in Section 95 of the Indian Penal Code. That section reads:

95. Nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be likely to cause, any harm, if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm.

10. Herbert Broom has stated this principle in his book 'Legal Maxims' in the following words (9th Edition, page 102):

Where trifling irregularities or even infractions of the strict letter of the law are brought under the notice of the court the maxim de minimis non curat lex is of frequent practical application. It has, for instance, been applied to support a rate, in the assessment of which there were some comparatively trifling omissions of established forms. So, with reference to proceedings for an infringement of the revenue laws, Sir W. Scott observed that the court is not bound to a strictness at once harsh and pedantic in the application of statutes. The law permits the qualification implied in the ancient maxim, de minimis non curat lex. Where there are irregularities of very slight consequence, it does not intend that the infliction of penalties should be inflexibly severe. If the deviation were a mere trifle, which, if continued in practice, would weigh little or nothing on the public interest, it might properly be overlooked.

11. The Supreme Court had the same principle in mind when it decided the case of Attar Singh v. The State of U. P. A.I.R. 1959 S.C. 564 In that case the constitutionality of Section 14(1) of the U.P. Consolidation of Holdings Act was challenged, on the ground that it violated Article 31(2) of the Constitution. Under Section 14 each tenure-holder is obliged to contribute a small bit of land to the common pool which is used for the benefit of the entire body of tenure-holders. The Supreme Court held that even if Article 31(2) of the Constitution applied, the land taken from each tenure-holder was much too small to be of any consequence and the advantage that accrued to the tenure-holders was far greater than any loss suffered by them.

12. The application of this rule is also to be found in the decision of a Full Bench of this court of which one of us (Honourable Dwivedi, J.) was a member in the case of B. Malik v. Union of India A.I.R. 1970 All. 268. In paragraph 1C of the judgment it was observed :

So Parliament cannot alter or change the rights in respect of pension vesting in him at the date of his appointment to the detriment, or loss or injury to the interest of the Judge. But every sort of alteration 01 change will not, I think, be to his disadvantage. Only such alteration OR change as will materially and really diminish the value of any right in respect of pension is prescribed by the proviso.... So a formal or unsubstantial change may be overlooked.

13. Accordingly we are of opinion that in the instant case the infraction of law is too small and insignificant to be taken notice of. The omission to pay another three paise should have been overlooked and the assessee should have been held to have discharged his liability of admitted tax.

14. For the reasons stated above, we answer the two questions in the following manner.

Q. No. (1) in the negative.

Q. No. (2) in the affirmative.

15. The assessee is entitled to the costs which we assess at Rs. 100.


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