S.S. Sandhawalia, C.J.
1. The primary and indeed the sole challenge herein is directed against the constitutional validity of Schedule D of the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948, as made applicable to the State of Haryana vide Haryana Amendment and Validation Act (President's Act No. 14 of 1967) on 14th November, 1967. The facts, therefore, deserve recapitulation only with relevance to the issue aforesaid.
2. M/s. Ram Rattan Dass Mohan Lai of Dabwali, District Hissar, claim mainly to carry on the business of unginned cotton and after ginning the same to sell it in the form of ginned cotton and cotton seed. It is averred that the goods aforesaid are liable to tax at the stage specified in Schedule D aforesaid read with Sections 14 and 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956. The petitioners filed returns for the year 1967-68 with the Assessing Authority, Sirsa, District Hissar, but the assessment framed by the aforesaid authority was later quashed in appeal and the matter was remanded for redetermination. By his order dated 6th December, 1973 (annexure A to the petition), the Assessing Authority assessed the total tax liability of the petitioners at the figure of Rs. 22,354.33. Included therein is the tax leviable on them under Schedule D as the first purchasers of cotton.
3. The primary grievance of the petitioners now is that the aforesaid assessment as first purchasers leads to double taxation of the same commodity at more than one stage of declared goods which is barred by the provisions of Section 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, and Article 286(3) of the Constitution. On these premises, the petitioners assail the validity of Schedule D on the ground that it inevitably leads to double taxation which is prohibited by law.
4. In the context of the only argument raised in the present case, the controversy inevitably revolves around the relevant statutory provisions. Some aspects of the legal position, however, are not at all in doubt. Clause (3) of Article 286 of the Constitution lays down that with regard to any tax on the sale or purchase of goods declared by Parliament to be^of special importance in inter-State trade or commerce, any law imposed by a State would be subject to such restrictions and conditions as Parliament may, by law, specify. In conformity with the constitutional mandate, Section 14 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, declares a number of goods as being of special importance in inter-State trade or commerce. These goods for convenience and by long usage have now come to be known as declared goods under the State statute. Clause (ii) of Section 14 clearly specifies cotton of all kinds, both indigenous and imported, in its unmanufactured state, whether ginned or unginned, baled, pressed or otherwise (but excluding cotton waste) as one of the items of declared goods. So far, there is hardly any controversy but, as already noticed, the challenge is to Schedule D as existing and applicable in the State of Haryana on or after 14th November, 1967, but for facility of reference the relevant part thereof may just be set down :
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Serial Name of declared Circumstances under Stage of levyNo. goods which tax to be levied--------------------------------------------------------------------------------1. Cotton, that is to say, all (i) If imported by a dealer (i) First sale kinds of cotton (indige- from outside the State of within the State ofnous or imported) in its Haryana, or otherwise Haryana by amanufactured state, received by him in the dealer liable towhether ginned or un- State of Haryana, for pay tax underginned, baled, pressed or sale. this Act.otherwise but not includ- (ii) If purchased in the (ii) First purchaseing cotton waste. State of Haryana. within the Stateof Haryana by a dealer liable tothis Act.'--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5. Now, the core of the argument on behalf of the petitioners raised by Mr. Dogra is that their case is covered by item (i) of the schedule aforesaid and, therefore, no liability for any tax for the purchase of cotton can fall on their shoulders. Counsel contended that by the impugned order of assessment the petitioners have been burdened with tax by the applicability of item (ii) of the aforesaid schedule and, therefore, challenged the validity of the same as violative of the Constitution because it inevitably results in double taxation.
6. Apart from the fact that the matter appears to us as concluded against the petitioners by a Division Bench judgment of this Court, we have been rather unable to appreciate the basic argument raised by Mr. Dogra on behalf of the petitioners. His stand was that the case of the petitioners fell under item (i) of Schedule D aforesaid and he frankly conceded that if the Assessing Authority were to apply that provision no question of the unconstitutionally of Schedule D would arise. Now if that be so we are unable to see as to why by the mere fact of the Assessing Authority taking a view contrary to that canvassed on behalf of the petitioners and applying item (ii) of the schedule to their case would by that fact alone make the whole of the schedule unconstitutional. It is plain that the constitutionality or otherwise of a statutory provision cannot and does not hinge on its mere application to the facts of a particular case at the very first stage by the Assessing Authority.
7. However, we deem it wasteful to examine the matter afresh on principle or to traverse the same ground over again in view of the categoric observation of the Division Bench in Shri Laxmi Cotton Traders Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Haryana A.I.R. 1969 P. & H. 12. Therein the identical provisions of Schedule D aforesaid were made the subject-matter of what I may say, an identical challenge on behalf of the petitioners. After quoting the provisions of Schedule D in the said judgment, their Lordships in paragraphs 12, 13,14,15 and 16 of the Reports upheld the vires of the same with the observation that in any particular case where a double taxation has been made by the Assessing Authority, the court would strike down that action, but this factor would obviously have no bearing on the validity of the statute itself.
8. Faced with the nearly unsurmountable hurdle of the aforesaid precedent, Mr. Dogra made a faint and half-hearted submission that the view in Shri Laxmi Cotton Traders Pvt. Ltd.'s case A.I.R. 1969 P. & H. 12 needs reconsideration. However, not a solitary argument was raised to assail the well-considered observations of Mahajan, J., while speaking for the Bench. Apart from the fact that we are ourselves inclined to take an identical view, it appears to us that the same has already received the tacit affirmance of their Lordships of the Supreme Court. In Rattan Lai and Co. v. Assessing Authority, Patiala A.I.R. 1970 S.C. 1742, Hidayatullah, C. J., speaking for the court, was considering the amended provisions of Section 5(3) (i) and (ii) of the Punjab General Sales Tax Act and the corresponding provisions of the said Act as applicable in Haryana. It was observed that after the amendment the provisions applicable to Punjab did not suffer from any of the defects from which the earlier unamended Act had suffered and, therefore, the constitutional validity as also its retrospectivity were upheld. As regards the Haryana cases, their Lordships concluded as follows :
We do not think it necessary to set down here the provisions of the Haryana Amendment Act because they follow the scheme of the Punjab Amendment Act in substance and what we have said in regard to the Punjab Amending Act applies mutatis mutandis to Haryana Amendment Act also.
9. It is manifest from the above that the matter is now concluded against the petitioners on the specific point now sought to be raised on their behalf.
10. Once the issue of the constitutionality of the provisions is out of the way, the matter is essentially in a narrow compass. As already stands noticed, the specific challenge was to the order of the Assessing Authority, Sirsa, District Hissar, dated 6th December, 1973. Mr. Dogra frankly concedes that the said order was appealable. Therefore, in view of the provisions of Article 226(3), the writ is not maintainable because of the availability of the alternative remedy of statutory appeals and revisions. We, therefore, relegate the petitioners to their ordinary remedy and to the benefit of the proviso to Section 58(2) of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, if they are attracted to their case.
11. The writ petition is without merit and is hereby dismissed with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 300 only.