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The Kanhan Valley Coal Company Pvt. Ltd., Nagpur and anr. Vs. the Janapada Panchayat, Chhindwara and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtMadhya Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMisc. Petn. Nos. 351, 352 to 354, 491 to 493 and 500 of 1970
Judge
Reported inAIR1978MP69; 1978MPLJ67
ActsConstitution of India - Article 14; Central Provinces Local Self-Government Act, 1920 - Sections 51 and 79; Central Provinces Coal Cess Rules, 1935 - Rule 3
AppellantThe Kanhan Valley Coal Company Pvt. Ltd., Nagpur and anr.
RespondentThe Janapada Panchayat, Chhindwara and ors.
Appellant AdvocateY.S. Dharmadhikari, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateS.K. Seth, Adv. (for Nos. 1 (a) to 1 (e) and 2) and ;S.L. Saxena, Govt. Adv. (for Nos. 3 and 4)
Cases ReferredState of Madhya Pradesh v. Bhopal Sugar Industries Ltd.
Excerpt:
- - 1. in this petition as well as miscellaneous petitions nos. the increase of tax in excess of 3 pies per ton was held to be bad and the supreme court decision ending that controversy is reported in amalgamated coalfields ltd. we have already .pointed out that in spite of granting time of several months to the petitioners for supplying the requisite particulars by amending the petitions, the petitioners failed to supply these particulars and have insisted on our deciding this point on this basis alone......ltd. v. janapada sabha, chhindwara, air 1964 sc 1013, the material facts pertaining to the levy are stated in those reports and need not be reiterated. the argument now advanced, based on article 14 of the constitution, is a fresh ground to attack the same levy. it may be mentioned that such an argument was available to the colliery owners even in the very first round of the litigation which ended with the decision reported in amalgamated coalfields ltd. v. janapada sabha, chhindwara, because the period of tax involved therein was subsequent to 1-11-1956. however, that point was then not raised nor thereafter prior to this round of the litigation. it is in this manner that this question arises for our decision.6. we may now state the substance oi the petitioners' pleading on the.....
Judgment:

J.S. Verma, J.

1. In this petition as well as Miscellaneous Petitions Nos. 352, 353, 354, 491, 492, 493 and 500 of 1970, one common question has been referred for decision by this Full Bench. This decision shall govern the disposal only of that question in all these petitions.

2. The question for decision by this Full Bench is only one, which is as follows:--

'Whether the continuance of the Coal Cess Rules, 1935, made under the C. P. Local Self Government Act, 1920, on reorganization of the States after 1-11-1956 empowering the recovery of the coal cess thereunder within the district of Chhind-wara alone in the new State infringes Article 14 of the Constitution of India?'

Even though in the petition, violation of Article 14 is alleged for several reasons, at the hearing before us Shri Y. S. Dharmadhikari, learned counsel for the petitioners in all these cases, expressly confined the petitioners' case on the basis of Article 14 only to the above ground. We shall, therefore, confine our opinion to this question alone.

3. When these petitions came up for hearing before this Full Bench for the first time, on 13-7-77 we adjourned the cases since Shri Y.S. Dharmadhikari prayed for grant of some tune to amend the petition so as to furnish the full particulars necessary for deciding the above question relating to infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution. We again granted further time to the petitioners' counsel on 5-8-1977 for this very purpose. Thereafter these petitions were listed before us on 14-11-1977. In spite of several months being granted to the petitioners for this purpose, no attempt to amend the petition and to supply the necessary particulars to support the petitioners' case based on Article 14 has been made. Shri Dharmadhikari, counsel for the petitioner, stated at the commencement of the hearing on 14-11-1977 that the petitioners did not propose to make any amendment in the petition and he then invited us to decide the point on the basis of the existing material. It is in these circumstances that we are called upon to decide this question.

4. In short, the contention of Shri Y.S. Dharmadhikari, learned counsel for the petitioners, is that the continuance of Coal Cess Rules, 1935, permitting the Janapada Sabha, Chhindwara, to recover coal cess at the rate of 3 pies per ton on coal etc. from the colliery owners of Chhindwara district even after 1-11-1956 infringes Article 14 of the Constitution because it amounts to a hostile discrimination of the colliery owners of Chhindwara district as against the colliery owners in the other districts of the new State of Madhya Pradesh. He states that we can take judicial notice of the fact that there are some other districts in the new State of Madhya Pradesh where collieries are in existence but this particular cess is confined only to collieries within the Chhindwara district. Merely on this ground itself i.e. absence of applicability of the Coal Cess Rules 1935, to other districts of the new State of Madhya Pradesh having collieries, according to the argument advanced, there is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

5. It is not necessary for us to give in detail the history of this levy since this is not the first time when the validity of this levy has been challenged in law courts. On an earlier occasion, the initial imposition of this levy and its continuance after enforcement of the Constitution of India by virtue of Article 277 was upheld when challenged by the colliery owners of Chhindwara district with reference to the tax claimed by the Janapada Sabha, Chhindwara, litigation ended with the Supreme Court decision reported in Amalgamated Coalfields Ltd. v. Janapada Sabha, Chhindwara, AIR 1961 SC 964. However, the question of increase in the rate of tax from 3 pies to 9 pies per ton was not decided as it had not been raised in the petition. Thereafter this increase in the rate over 3 pies per ton was again challenged by the colliery owners. The increase of tax in excess of 3 pies per ton was held to be bad and the Supreme Court decision ending that controversy is reported in Amalgamated Coalfields Ltd. v. Janapada Sabha, Chhindwara, AIR 1964 SC 1013, The material facts pertaining to the levy are stated in those reports and need not be reiterated. The argument now advanced, based on Article 14 of the Constitution, is a fresh ground to attack the same levy. It may be mentioned that such an argument was available to the colliery owners even in the very first round of the litigation which ended with the decision reported in Amalgamated Coalfields Ltd. v. Janapada Sabha, Chhindwara, because the period of tax involved therein was subsequent to 1-11-1956. However, that point was then not raised nor thereafter prior to this round of the litigation. It is in this manner that this question arises for our decision.

6. We may now state the substance oi the petitioners' pleading on the point. Shri Dharmadhikari has referred to paragraphs 28, 29 and 30 of the petition in M. P. No. 351/70 as containing the entire material relied on by the petitioners for deciding this question. Learned counsel has argued with reference to the paper-book of M. P. No. 351/70 saying that the facts are identical in all these cases. We shall, therefore, refer only to the paper-book and material pertaining to M. P. No. 351/70. In substance, the pleading in these paragraphs of the petition is that the imposition of this levy in the ' district of Chhindwara alone amounts to hostile discrimination because there is no reason why the lessees of coal mines in Chhindwara district alone in the State should be treated on a separate footing. No facts or particulars are pleaded or material placed before us from which it may be possible to know whether this allegation of hostile discrimination made by the petitioners is correct or not. In short, the relevant averments in the petition amount only to stating the petitioners' opinion that all colliery owners, whether in Chhindwara district or in other districts of the State of Madhya Pradesh, are similarly placed and the mere fact that the colliery owners of Chhindwara district are made to pay this tax at the rate of 3 pies per ton is by itself an infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution. We have, therefore, the petitioners' opinion on the point and not the relevant data on the basis of which this point can be decided. We have already .pointed out that in spite of granting time of several months to the petitioners for supplying the requisite particulars by amending the petitions, the petitioners failed to supply these particulars and have insisted on our deciding this point on this basis alone.

7. Counsel for the petitioners has in all fairness placed before us the decision in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Bhopal Sugar Industries Ltd., AIR 1064 SC 1179, which, in our opinion, is a complete answer to his argument on the point. That was a case in which the continuance of agricultural income-tax in the Bhopal region of the new State of Madhya Pradesh had been challenged similarly on the basis of Article 14 of the Constitution. The challenge was made only on the ground that imposition of such a levy in the Bhopal region amounted to infringement of Article 14. No other particulars to justify the plea of infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution were pleaded by the petitioners. The High Court in that case struck down the levy merely on that ground but that decision was reversed by the Supreme Court and in doing so the necessary test applicable for deciding such a question was also indicated. In substance, it was pointed out that it is necessary to investigate the structure of tax burden imposed directly or indirectly on persons similarly placed taking into account the impugned levy; the difference, if any, in the overall tax liability between the persons similarly situated within the State in the matter of the levy; whether the burden between the persons similarly circumstanced was substantially dissimilar; and whether the continuance of the levy was justified. The plea taken in that case initially being substantially the same as in these petitions, the observations oi the Supreme Court with regard to such a plea is also instructive. It was also pointed out by the Supreme Court in that case that the petition was deficient in furnishing particulars which would justify the plea of infringement of Article 34 of the Constitution and it was stated that the applicant taking such a plea had to place full material before the Court from which it was possible to make out the nature of enquiry already indicated. The Supreme Court ultimately held that the plea taken in that case was by itself not sufficient to support the plea of infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution. The case was accordingly remanded to the High Court to enable the parties to place all the relevant material for deciding the question.

8. We have already indicated that in the present case in spite of our giving opportunity of several months to the petitioners, they have refused to place any such material before us. On the only ground taken, the decision of the Supreme Court in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Bhopal Sugar Industries Ltd., AIR 1964 SC 1179 is an authority to hold that no case of infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution can be made out simply for this reason, i.e., the continuance of levy on the colliery owners within the district of Chhindwara alone in the new State of Madhya Pradesh.

9. The result is that the petitioners have been unable to support their challenge to the continuance of the Coal Cess Rules, 1935, after 1-11-1956 on the basis of alleged infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution. The petitioners' contention on that ground has, therefore, no merit and is rejected. The reference is answered accordingly. These petitions shall now be placed before the appropriate Division Bench for deciding the remaining questions.


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