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Sudesh Rattan Mahajan Vs. Collector of Customs and Central - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtCustoms Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal CESTAT Delhi
Decided On
Reported in(1983)(14)ELT2517TriDel
AppellantSudesh Rattan Mahajan
RespondentCollector of Customs and Central
Excerpt:
.....the word "or" occurring after sub-clauses (a) and (b) of section 131-b (2) as well as between the words "fine" and ' "penalty" in sub-clause (c) of the said proviso to section 131-b(2) have to be read as "and". alternatively, he submitted that, at least, the word "or" occurring between "fine" and "penalty" in sub-clause (c) of the proviso to section 131-b(2) should be read as "and". he relied upon an extract from maxwell on interpretation of statutes, 11th edition, incorporated in the law lexicon by shri t.p. mukherjee to the effect that "to carry the intention of the legislature it is occasionally found necessary to read the conjunctions "or" and "and", one for the other", and accordingly invited us to read "and" for "or"; particularly in sub-clause (c) so that it would read "the.....
Judgment:
1. This is a revision application filed by the Central Government against an order in review, passed by the Collector of Customs and Central Excise, Chandigarh, of the order in adjudication dated the 31st May, 1977, and transferred to the Tribunal presumably under Section 131-8(2) of the Customs Act, 1962.

2. On transfer to the Tribunal it was numbered as CD(DEL)(T) A. 1521/80 and was taken up for hearing yesterday, and at the request of Shri Bedi, today.

3. It appeared to us that the instant matter should not have been transferred in terms of the proviso to Section 131-B(2) of the Act as it now reads, inasmuch as neither the fine nor the penalty levied in the case exceeds Rs. 10.000/-.

4. In terms of the proviso to Section 131-B(2) of the Act, a proceeding pending before the Central Government which relates to an order where- determined by such order, does not exceed Rs. 10,000/-, such proceeding or matter shall continue to be dealt with by the Central Government as if Section 131, as it stood before the appointed date, was never substituted. Barring the aforesaid cases all other proceedings are to be transferred to the Tribunal.

5. The use of the disjunctive "or" between Clauses (a), (b) and (c) of the proviso to Section 131-B is significant. It becomes apparent in consequence of the use of the disjunctive "or" that in a case where either (a) or (b) or (c) of the proviso to Section 131-B(2) is satisfied the jurisdiction vested in the Central Government earlier is not taken away and it is the Central Government alone that has jurisdiction to deal with such a proceeding. It is not necessary that all the requirements of Sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) are to be satisfied for the pre-existing jurisdiction of the Central Government to continue.

6. In this case, pursuant to a notice to show-cause dated 14-11-1972, it would appear there was an adjudication by the Deputy Collector of Central Excise, Chandigarh who by his order dated the 31st May, 1977 did not levy any penalty on the Appellant. He merely directed confiscation of the scooter seized as having been used as a conveyance subject to redemption on payment of a fine of Rs. 1000/-. The Collector of Customs and Central Excise, Chandigarh purporting to act under Section 130 of the Customs Act, 1962, as it stood at the material time, initiated a review of the aforesaid order of the Deputy Collector and by his order dated the 27th February, 1980 imposed a penalty of Rs. 10,000/- on the Appellant while allowing him to redeem the scooter on payment of a fine of Rs. 1000/-.

7. Before us, Shri A.K.S. Bedi, Advocate for the Appellant contended that the word "or" occurring after Sub-clauses (a) and (b) of Section 131-B (2) as well as between the words "fine" and ' "penalty" in Sub-clause (c) of the said proviso to Section 131-B(2) have to be read as "and". Alternatively, he submitted that, at least, the word "or" occurring between "fine" and "penalty" in Sub-clause (c) of the proviso to Section 131-B(2) should be read as "and". He relied upon an extract from Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 11th Edition, incorporated in the Law Lexicon by Shri T.P. Mukherjee to the effect that "to carry the intention of the legislature it is occasionally found necessary to read the conjunctions "or" and "and", one for the other", and accordingly invited us to read "and" for "or"; particularly in Sub-clause (c) so that it would read "the amount of fine and penalty determined by such order does not exceed Rs. 10,000/-". He also wanted to refer to the intention of the legislature as spelt out in various documents other than the statute itself. Finally, he urged that the word "or" occurring in Sub-clause (c) may be read as "and/or". His submission was that if the proviso is construed as urged by him, the Tribunal has the jurisdiction to hear the matter and not the Central Government, since in the instant case before us the penalty and fine together exceeded Rs. 10.000/-.

8. In ordinary usage "and" is conjunctive and "or" disjunctive. While it may be that it is necessary to read "and" in the place of "or" or vice versa to carry out the intention of the legislature it is not invariably the rule of construction. It is only if, literally construed, the provision, either by itself or in the context of the other provisions, would have manifestly led to absurd results or frustrated the objects of the enactment in question or renders it ineffective or results iq aq unintended anomaly that the disjunctive 'or" is read as "and". Otherwise the fundamental principle of construction is that the words used in a statute must be understood in their ordinary grammatical sense.

9. We do not see any such manifest absurdity either in the provision itself or read with the other provisions of the Act, if we do not read "and" for "or". Nor do we find that it is a case where the object of the enactment of Section 131-B(2) is frustrated, unless it is so read.

Quite to the contrary, it would not result in any anomaly whatsoever if we read the proviso as it stands.

10. We have given the purport of the proviso to Section 131-B(2) in para 4 supra. It deals with the question of jurisdiction in so far as proceedings pending immediately before the appointed date before the Central Government are concerned in terms of the quantum of fine or penalty or value of goods confiscated absolutely or duty involved. It provides, inter alia, that in the cases specified therein the Central Government shall continue to have jurisdiction to hear and decide even after the appointed date. If the continuance of the jurisdiction that was previously vested in the Central Government even after the appointed date in the cases specified is not the manifest policy of the enactment, there was no reason Why it could not have been altogether abrogated. We see no reason, therefore, to substitute the word "and" for "or" either between Sub-sections (a) and (b) or (b) and (c) or in (c) itself, with a view to restrict such jurisdiction and enlarge that of the Tribunal beyond what was, plainly, intended.

11. If per chance we are to read "and" in the places where "or" occurs in the proviso to Section 131-B, it would mean and imply that the conditions in all the Sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) will have to be cumulatively fulfilled before the Central Government can exercise any jurisdiction in the proceedings pending before it on the appointed date. In other words, there has to be an absolute confiscation and levy of duty and fine and penalty. All put together should not exceed Rs. 10,000/-. Such a construction would lead to absurd results, for example, in a case where a penalty alone in a sum of less than Rs. 10,000/- was levied, the Central Government would be deprived of its pre-existing jurisdiction just because there has been neither absolute confiscation nor duty involved nor fine levied. There may also be no case in which all the three sub-sections conjunctively read can be satisfied. Accordingly, there is no warrant for adopting a construction that would, in reality, deprive the Central Government of the jurisdiction plainly vested and thus frustrate the obvious intent of the legislature.

12. The contention that the word "or" occurring between the words "fine" and "penalty" in Sub-clause (c) of the proviso to Section 131-B (2) was one of despair. It recalls to mind the celebrated observation of Lord Simon L.C., extracted in A.I.R. 1967 Goa 169 at 186-to the effect that "and/or" is a bastard conjunction which was the contribution of commercial courts to basic English.

13. In the premises, we have no hesitation in rejecting the contentions of the learned counsel. The Appeal may be re-transferred to the Central Government for disposal since we cannot arrogate ourselves to a jurisdiction which we do not obviously have. If we were to hear and decide such a matter as this, our order would be a nullity.


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