1. The petitioner is carrying on business of manufacturing batteries which are exclusively required and used for railway coaches and engines. The petitioner submitted an application under Section 102 of the West Bengal Value Added Tax Act, 2003 (hereinafter referred to as, "the VAT Act") before the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes requesting him for determining the question of the rate of tax payable on railway carriage batteries. By his order dated July 12, 2006, the Commissioner gave his decision that the railway carriage batteries are integral parts of railway coaches and engines and as such those batteries are covered under entry 60 of Schedule C, Part I, attracting tax at four per cent. While giving his decision, the Commissioner has added that his decision is an advance ruling and will apply prospectively. Being aggrieved by the aforesaid rider in the order of the Commissioner, the petitioner has moved this Tribunal.
2. Mr. Chakraborty, learned Advocate appearing for the petitioner, has drawn our attention to the concerned entry 60 as amended on May 1, 2005. After the aforesaid amendment of May 1, 2005, the entry stood thus: Rail coaches engines, wagons and freight containers and parts thereof.
3. Subsequently the entry was further amended with effect from February 1, 2006 and the following words have been added: Rail coaches engines and freight containers and parts thereof, and rail coach fan.
5. If the railway carriage batteries are accepted to be parts of railway coaches and engines then such batteries are covered by entry 60 from May 1, 2005. When the Commissioner has decided that railway carriage batteries are integral parts of railway coaches and engines, he cannot qualify the said decision saying that they should operate only retrospectively as the words, "parts thereof" have been inserted in entry 60 from May 1, 2005 and continuing therein.
6. An affidavit-in-opposition affirmed by an Additional Commissioner of Sales Tax, West Bengal, has been filed to justify the impugned rider in the Commissioner's order. In paragraph 9 of the said affidavit in opposition, the deponent has given the following reason: It was decided by respondent No. 1 that the batteries manufactured by the petitioner were for exclusive use for railway coaches and engines as their integral parts. And it is also true that parts of railway coaches, engines, etc., were inserted with effect from May 1, 2005. Still it was categorically said in the order that the order, as an advance ruling, would apply prospectively. Simple perusal of Sub-section (1) and Sub-section (2) of Section 102 of the Act, 2003 taken together will show that the very languages any tax is at all payable' appearing in Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) and 'if any questions, referred to in Sub-section (1), arises from any order passed...' appearing in Sub-section (2), makes it abundantly clear that the respondent No. 1 is strictly debarred from deciding the disputed issue retrospectively. It is to be mentioned here that here lies the difference between 102 of the Act, 2003 and Section 102A of the West Bengal Sales Tax Act, 1994, which Section was introduced with effect from April 1, 2002 by West Bengal Act 1 of 2002. Under Section 102A of the West Bengal Sales Tax Act, 1994, respondent No. 1 had the liberty to march backward if the situation demands so. But under Section 102 of Act, 2003, no such liberty is given to respondent No. 1. It is submitted that when dispute becomes the matter of past period where chances of passing order under any other provisions of the Act, 2003 arise, as enumerated in Sub-section (2), respondent No. 1 cannot proceed at all. Hence, the decision was carefully and cautiously taken by respondent No. l that the order would apply prospectively. This is in conformity with the law. Allegations raised in grounds (i), (ii) and (v) are strongly denied. It is further submitted that the law is such that respondent No. 1 cannot decide the past issue. It, therefore, implies that any determination, which is always subject to judicial scrutiny, determining that any goods belong to certain entry of certain Schedule of the Act, 2003 and the rate of tax, applicable to that entry, will automatically be applicable, will obviously come into force with prospective effect. I, therefore, dispute the conditions made in grounds (iii) and (iv).
7. We are unable to accept the aforesaid reason as correct. When the Commissioner is interpreting extent of coverage of a particular entry, it is obvious that his interpretation will be effective and applicable from the day that particular entry has been incorporated. An entry with same language cannot have one kind of meaning or coverage up to the date of decision of the Commissioner and another meaning or coverage after such decision. Once the Commissioner exercises his jurisdiction under Section 102 of the VAT Act, and gives his decision it will have its full legal implication and effect. The Commissioner has no power or authority to change the date of operation of a statutory provision. It cannot be correct that under Section 102 of the VAT Act, the Commissioner's decision or interpretation will not have any effect in the past period.
8. For the reasons aforesaid, we make it clear that the rider in the decision of the Commissioner that the decision will operate prospectively is set aside. Accordingly, the application is allowed.