1. This is a petition filed by the petitioners challenging the order of the Transport Commissioner, which has been mentioned by the Regional Transport Officer, Bhopal, withdrawing the exemption of tax on the vehicles of the petitioners Under Section 11 (2) of the M. P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1947, in his letter to the petitioners dated 14-5-1981.
2. According to the petitioners, the petitioner is a public limited Company incorporated under the relevant Companies Act with its registered office at Sehore in the State of Madhya Pradesh. It is alleged that the petitioner, the Bhopal Sugar Industries Ltd., Sehore purchased a sugar factory which was installed at Sehore by the ex-Rulerof Bhopal. It was a running concern known as Bhopal State Sugar Industry, This sugar industry had thousands of acres of agricultural lands and the ex-Ruler at the time of transfer of the sugar industry also sold along with the factory all the agricultural lands to the Company situated in the vicinity of the sugar mill, The area of the lands so transferred to the Company by the ex-Ruler is within a radius of 8 to 10 miles from the campus of the sugar factory in Sehore and the Company still holds 4501.60 acres of agricultural lands.
3. It is alleged that the petitioner No. 2 is a shareholder of the Company and is a citizen of India and he holds a constituted power of attorney from the Board of Directors of the Company and is also a Manager of the factory.
4. It is alleged that the Company is engaged in several activities, like-
(a) Sugar Factory at Sehore.
(b) Jagmanek Solvent Extraction Plant for extraction of oil.
(c) Refinery, for refining of oil. (d) Distillery, for manufacture of Alcohol/Salient spirit.
(e) Sale and distribution agency for sugar, oil etc.
(f) Cultivation in its farms by mechanical devices on large scale -- Farm Undertaking, and the Company personally cultivates its lands through its own employees and machineries.
5. It is further alleged that the Company's Farm undertaking is for the purpose of cultivation of near about 4500 acres of agricultural lands through mechanical devices. The Company pays agricultural land revenue for those lands to the State Govt. For the purposes of agricultural activities and processes, such as, sloughing, ridging, harrowing, bakharring furrow making, land shaping and levelling, harvesting threshing and transportation of crops and produce of agriculture and other materials necessary for agriculture, the petitioner Company uses tractors, trailers and several other equipments.
6. According to the petitioners, the number of tractors and trailers owned by the petitioner Company are given below along with the registration numbers allotted by the Regional Transport Officer, Bhopal under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act:--
(i) MPB 2256 to 2317 -- 62 Nos.-Trailers(ii)MPB 3452, 3453, -- 6 ' Trailers3454, 3455, 3457and 3458(iii)MPB 2250 to 2255 -- 6 ' Tractors.
7. According to the petitioners, theCompany's tractors and trailers havebeen registered under the provisions ofMotor Vehicles Act and which are usedfor transport of goods. The goods of theCompany include sugar bags and othermanufacture. The Company alsouses these goods vehicles fortransportation of sugarcane mainly fromthe cane purchasing centres to the factorygate and also for transporting cane fromthe farms of the Company to the factory.As those goods vehicles are not used exclusively for transporting agriculturalproduce of the Company, the petitionerCompany pays tax on those vehiclesunder Section 3 of the M. P. Motor VehiclesTaxation Act, 1947. According to the petitioner, the petitioner Company is entitledto exemption from levy of tax under Section 11 (2) of the M. P. Motor VehiclesTaxation Act, 1947 in respect of the following 74 vehicles:--
(i) MPB 2256 to 2317
(ii) MPB 3452, 3453, 3454,
3455,3457 and 3458.
(iii) MPB 2250 to 2255
9. It is contended by the petitioners that these tractors and trailers mentionedabove are used solely for the purposes of agriculture and the Company is a bone fide agriculturist with reference to its farm undertaking. The Company grows agriculture produce on its lands personally, and the Company's lands are situated at a distance from the registered office of the Company, the Company's godown and market places are also at Sehore. The market yard for sale of agriculture produce is also at Sehore- The Company is a bona fide agriculturist and cultivates personally within the meaning assigned to those terms under the M. P. Land Be-venue Code. It is also alleged that this has also been certified by the Tahsildar, tahsil and district Sehore.
10. It is also alleged by the petitionerthat for purposes of assessmentof income-tax the income-taxauthorities have always treatedexpenditure incurred relating to salaryand wages, consumption of diesel; lubricants and repairs and maintenance concerning tractors and trailers as expenditure on agriculture. The Income-tax authorities also treated the tractors and trailersmentioned above as agricultural assets. Itis alleged by the petitioner that the petitioner Company wrote a letter to theRegional Transport Officer (TaxationAuthority), Bhopal on 20-12-1980 and inthis letter, the petitioner submitted adetailed statement and claimed exemption of tax Under Section 11 (2) of the M. P. MotorVehicles Taxation Act, 1947. The RegionalTransport Officer accepted the claim ofthe Company and recorded in each registration book/vehicle Book concerning eachvehicle mentioned above that the vehicleis exempt from tax. The above exemptionwas granted by his order dated 27-12-1980. It is alleged that the registrationbooks are in possession of the R. T. O. towhom they were submitted by the petitioner.
11. It is alleged that the Transport Commissioner, M. P., Gwalior without any authority appears to have set aside the order of the R. T. O. as is indicated by the letters of the Regional Transport Officer, dated 2-5-1981 and 14-5-1981. It is said that the Transport Commissioner has set aside the order of the R.T.O. It is alleged that the petitioners made applications to the Regional Transport Officer as well as to the Transport Commissioner, Gwalior for grant of copies of the orders of the Transport Commissioner. The R. T. O. also wrote to the TransportCommissioner about the demand of the petitioner Company for grant of copies of the order of the Transport Commissioner but the petitioner has not received the copy of the order of the Transport Commissioner withdrawing the exemption granted to the petitioner Company by the R. T. O.
12. The petitioner also made an attempt to get the copy of the order of the Transport Commissioner by writing to the Government of Madhya Pradesh in the Home Department but did not succeed. It is further alleged that the petitioner has received a notice bearing No. 2411 dated 14-7-1981 from the R. T. O., Bhopal asking him to deposit the tax within 15 days.
13. According to the petitioner, under Section 11 (2) read with the explanation, the vehicles mentioned above are exempt from tax under the M. P. Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1947 and, therefore, the order granting exemption could not be withdrawn.
14. It is also contended that the Transport Commissioner has only powers under Section 20, of hearing an appeal. Except this, there are no powers to the Transport Commissioner to set aside the order passed by the R.T.O. ,and, therefore, the order passed by the R.T.O. Bhopal exempting the petitioner's vehicles mentioned above, could not have been set aside by the Transport Commissioner. The Transport Commissioner, it is also contended, even did not issue a notice to the petitioner nor gave any opportunity of hearing and, therefore, the order passed by the Transport Commissioner could not be maintained.
15. The respondent state, in their return, contended that the petitioner is an industrialist having a number of industries producing sugar and other things end petitioner is not an agriculturist within the meaning of the term 'bona fide agriculturist' and, therefore, is not entitled to exemption under Section 11 (2) of the Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1947. It is further contended that intention of incorporating the exemption for agriculturist could be inferred from the statements made on the floor of the House and it was contended that it was with an intention to exempt bona fide agriculturists with regard to vehicles which were only used for purposes of agriculture and, therefore, Section 11 (2)with explanation has been enacted in the provisions. As regards the authority of the Transport Commissioner, an attempt was made to contend that even the R. T. O. had not exempted the petitioner but had only prepared an order which he ultimately chose to set aside, probably on advice of the Transport Commissioner. 16. At the time of arguments, learned counsel for the petitioner frankly conceded that so far as technical objection about jurisdiction of the Transport Commissioner is concerned, he is not keen on that question. But the main contention advanced was that the petitioner, according to the petitioner, is a bona fide agriculturist and has vehicles mentioned above which are exclusively used for purposes of agriculture, as has been indicated in the explanation to Section 11 (2) and, therefore, he is entitled to exemption. Whereas, learned Government Advocate contended that the petitioner being a limited Company is not even a 'person' and, therefore, could not fall within the ambit of the definition of 'bona fide' agriculturist' as the petitioner not being a person is incapable of cultivating personally. Section 11 (2) reads:--
'11 (2) No tax shall be leviable on any motor vehicle used or kept for use solely for the purpose of agriculture. Explanation 1-- For the purposes of Sub-section (2) any articulated vehicle belonging to a bona fide agriculturist used for transportation of-
(i) agricultural produce grown on the land cultivated personally; or
(ii) any material required for the purpose of agriculture;
between the land cultivated personally and his place of residence, godown or any market glace of such agricultural produce or such material shall be deemed to be used solely for the purposes of agriculture but any other motor vehicle used for transporting agricultural produce shall not be deemed to be used solely for the purpose of agriculture.
Explanation II--- For the purposes of Explanation I the expressions 'bona fide agriculturist', 'to cultivate personally' and 'agriculture' shall have the meanings assigned to them in the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1969 No. 20 of 1959.' In Explanation I vehicles used for transportation of agricultural produce grown on the land cultivated personally or any material required for the purpose of agriculture shall be deemed to be used solely for the purposes of agriculture. In Explanation II, it has been provided that the expressions 'bona fide agriculturist', 'to cultivate personally' and 'agriculture' shall have the same meanings as assigned to them in M. P. Land Revenue Code, 1959.
17. Learned Government Advocate contended that the definition of 'bona fide agriculturist' as provided in Section 2 (e) of the M. P. Land Revenue Code, talks of a person who cultivates land personally and 'to cultivate personally' has been defined in Section 2 (z-2). The main emphasis Led by the learned counsel was that as the petitioner is a legal person incapable of cultivating personally, it could not be considered to be a person as contemplated in these definitions. Whereas, learned counsel for the petitioner contended that in the term 'to cultivate personally' Sub-clause (iii) talks of cultivation by servants on wages payable in cash or kind, and Sub-clause (iv) talks of hired labour under personal supervision. As regards 'personal supervision' also the contention advanced by the learned Government Advocate was that as the Company is not a person as contemplated under the definition of 'bona fide agriculturist', it could not be understood as to how such a person (Company) could personally supervise the agriculture. The learned Government Advocate placed reliance on a decision reported in K. P. Varghese v. Income-tax Officer, AIR 1981 SC 1922 to contend that the proceedings of Legislature could be taken note of while interpreting a particular statute; whereas reliance was placed on a decision reported in Anandji Kalyanji v. Daulatsingh, 1962 Jab LJ 670 to contend that a legal person like a Company could not be a person in the context of its use in Land Revenue and Tenancy Act (M. B.), Section 74 (1).
18. It is not disputed that Section 2 (31) of the Madhya Pradesh General Clauses Act defines the word 'person' and it specifically says that it includes a Company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not. S- 2 of M. P. General Clauses Act reads.-
'2. General definitions.-- In this Act and in all Madhya Pradesh enactments unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context.'
This clearly provides that the words defined under this section shall govern all Madhya Pradesh Acts unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context and Clause (31) of this Section 2 of M. P. General Clauses Act reads:
'2 (31) 'person' includes any company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not.'
19. It is not in dispute that M. P. Land Revenue Code does not define the term 'person' nor there is anything repugnant so that it could be contended that the definition of 'person' as provided in Section 2 (31) of the M. P. General Clauses Act should not be read in order to understand the meaning of the term 'person' whenever it occurs in the provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code-20. The term 'agriculture' has been defined in Clause (b) of Section 2 of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code and it reads:--
'(b) 'Agriculture' includes-
(i) the raising of annual or periodical crops including betel-leaves (Pan) and waternuts (Singhara) and garden produce.
(iii) the planting and upkeep of orchards; and
(iv) the reserving of land for fodder, grazing or thatching grass.' It is not in dispute that the petitioner Company although is carrying on industrial activities but also carries on agriculture. The activities of the petitioner have been clearly stated in the petition and also in the articles of association of the Company and it is not seriously disputed that agriculture is not one of those activities and, therefore, it could not be disputed that the activities pertaining to agriculture which are carried out by the petitioner will definitely fall within the ambit of this definition of the term 'agriculture'.
21. 'Bona fide agriculturist has been defined in Clause (e) of Section 2 of the M. P. Land Revenue Code. It provides:--
'(e) 'bona fide agriculturist' means a person who cultivates land personally or who may reasonably be expected to cultivate personally;'
The definition talks of a person who cultivates land personally. The other part of this definition about expectation of cultivating personally is of no significance so far as the case in hand is concerned. It was contended that the petitioner company could not be a person and it was further contended that it could not cultivate the land personally. The term 'tocultivate personally' has also been defined in Clause (z-2) of Section 2 of the M. P. Land Revenue Code. It reads:--
'(z-2) 'to cultivate personally' means to cultivate on one's own account-
(i) by one's own labour;
(ii) by the labour of any member of one's family; or
(iii) by servants on wages payable in cash or kind but not in crop share; or
(iv) by hired labour under one's personal supervision or the personal supervision of any member of one's family;' It is not disputed that Sub-clauses (i) and (ii) will not be useful so far as the petitioner is concerned but Sub-clauses (iii) and (iv) would positively come into operation. It is contended by the petitioner, which is not seriously disputed, that agricultural operations are carried out by the servants who are paid wages end also by hired labour and about hired labour, the learned Government Pleader contended that it could not be under one's personal supervision nor it could be the personal supervision of any member of one's family, as the initial contention of the learned Government Advocate was that the 'person' does not include a Company. 22. The decision of their Lordships of the Supreme Court on which reliance has been placed by the learned counsel lays down a proposition which could not be disputed and it could not be disputed that Section 11 (2) and its explanation have been enacted in order to exempt the agriculturist from tax under the Act with respect to vehicles which are used for purposes of agriculture and what could be said to be for purpose of agriculture has been clearly stated in the explanation. The decision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on which reliance was placed by the learned counsel, has considered the word 'person' vis-a-vis an idol in the context of the provisions of the Madhya Bharat Lend Revenue and Tenancy Act. But in that decision i. e. Anandji Kalyanjji v. Daulatsingh, 1962 Jab LJ 670 the Division Bench of this Court held:--
'The foundation of the opponents' claim for the grant of Pakka tenancy rights would then fall altogether. It is only if for the purposes of the Abolition Act the word 'person' is taken as including a juridical person that the petitioner can be regarded as a proprietor under Section 38 of the Abolition Act and it is only on that inclusion that the opponents cam invoke thebenefit of Section 38. It follows, therefore, that for the purposes of the proviso to Section 38 (2) and Section 74 (1) the word 'person' must be read as including an artificial person. And if that is the meaning of the word 'person', then the expression 'other physical infirmity' cannot be read as limited to an infirmity relating or pertaining to the body of a natural person. It can only mean a material or substantive infirmity having an objective existence and which is distinct or different from that already mentioned'.
23. It appears, therefore, that the Division Bench felt that 'person' will include a judicial person or a legal person as it may be said and the decision, in no way, supports the contention advanced by the learned counsel. Apart from it, so far as the definitions using the term 'person' in M. P. Land Revenue Code, are concerned as discussed earlier, they will be governed by the definition of the word 'person' provided under the M. P. General Clauses Act, quoted above and in this context, it could not be disputed that a bona fide agriculturist could even be a Company or an association of persons and in that context, if the term 'cultivate personally' is understood, it could not be doubted even in respect of Sub-clause (iv) of this definition that personal supervision will mean supervision by officers of the Company or its share-holders.
24. It is not disputed that agricultural activities are carried out by the petitioner Company on a large scale. It is also not disputed that agricultural activities are carried out by mechanised means with modern equipment and one of the major industrial activity of the petitioner Company is manufacture of sugar which uses sugarcane as a raw material which is an agricultural produce and as is stated by the petitioner, this is grown by the petitioner on the forms and also purchased from other farmers. In this view of the matter, it appears that the contention advanced by the learned Government Advocate that the petitioner being a Company could not be a person and, therefore, could not be a bona fide agriculturist, cannot be accepted. It is not contended before us that there is anything in the M. P. Land Revenue Code so repugnant in context so that the definition of the word 'person' as provided in the General Clauses Act cannot be invoked for purposes of understanding the meaning of theterm, 'bona fide agriculturist' or cultivate personally'. It is, therefore, clear that the petitioner is an agriculturist and can also be a bona fide agriculturist as defined under the M. P. Land Revenue Code and on the facts stated in the petition, and not disputed, it is clear that the petitioner is a bona fide agriculturist.
25. It was also contended by the learned Government Advocate that as the petitioner is not only involved in agricultural activities but has also other industrial activities, the petitioner could not be said to be a bona fide agriculturist. The definition of the phrase as quoted above does not help the respondent State to support this contention. The petitioner may have multi-faced activities but so far as it relates to agriculture on the facts as appear and undisputed, it could not be doubted that the petitioner is a bona fide agriculturist. It may be that while granting exemption under Section 11 (2), the R. T. O. may make an enquiry to come to a conclusion as to which of the vehicles is only used for purposes as indicated in the explanation to that section.
26. It was contended that although the petitioner has not been able to file a copy of the order of the R. T. O. exempting the petitioner's vehicles mentioned in the petition, but what is stated in the document No. 3, dt. 2-5-1981 clearly shows that an order was passed on 27-12-1980 which was not approved by the Transport Commissioner and it is also dear from the letter, document No. 4, dt 14-5-1981.
27. It appears that the Transport Commissioner in some other proceedings noticed this order of exemption granted by the R. T. O. and expressed his opinion or disapproval as a result of which these letters were issued to the petitioner and the learned Government Advocate has not been in a position to suggest under what provisions, the Transport Commissioner could pass such orders in some other proceedings affecting the petitioner and it appears, therefore, that an attempt was made in the return to contend that although the R. T. O. passed an order but did not communicate it as he was in hesitation and subsequently, receiving the guidance from the Transport Commissioner, he directed payment of tax on these vehicles. But such a contention is of no consequence in view of the clear language used in these two documents quoted above. But as the learned counsel forthe petitioner frankly conceded that hedoes not want to press this technicalquestion about the authority of the Transport Commissioner and the manner inwhich the order passed by the R. T. O. hasbeen set aside, it is not necessary for usto go into that question. It is, therefore,clear that the petitioner as a bona fideagriculturist is entitled to exemption fromtax Under Section 11 (2) of the M. P. Motor VehiclesTaxation Act, if the vehicles fall withinthe ambit of this provision and are usedfor purposes as indicated in Explanation-Ito this section. It appears that the R. T. O.granted exemption on the basis of a certificate issued by the Talisildar and also bythe Deputy Collector, Sehore, as they certified that these vehicles are being usedfor purposes of agriculture. But it couldnot be disputed and the learned counselfor the petitioner also did not dispute thatthe R. T. O. may make an enquiry aboutthe use of these vehicles in order to cometo a conclusion as to whether they couldcome within the language of Explanation-I.
28. In the light of the discussion above, therefore, this petition is allowed and it is held that the petitioner is entitled to exemption with regard to the vehicles which are used for purposes of agriculture under Section 11. It is further within the jurisdiction of the R. T. O. to make enquiries about the operation of these vehicles and the purpose for which they are operated in order to come to a conclusion as to whether they are entitled to exemption within the meaning of Explanation-1 to Section 11 (2). In the circumstances of the case, parties are directed to bear their own costs.