Skip to content


Gulab Rai Purshotam Das Kohali and anr. Vs. the Chief Commissioner, Delhi Administration and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax;Civil
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberC.W. No. 396-D of 1958
Judge
Reported in[1966]18STC320(P& H)
AppellantGulab Rai Purshotam Das Kohali and anr.
RespondentThe Chief Commissioner, Delhi Administration and anr.
Appellant Advocate Hardayal Hardy, Sr. Adv. and; A.C. Chawla and; Yogeshwar
Respondent Advocate S.N. Shankar and; N. Srinivasa Rao, Advs.
DispositionPetition allowed
Cases ReferredDeep Chand and Anr. v. Additional Director
Excerpt:
.....of the constitution. - shankar seeks to overcome this difficulty by suggesting that though the chief commissioner may be passing the order of review under sub-section (4) of section 20 yet it would be, in effect, an order under sub-section (3) of that section being an order revising the order of the commissioner. shankar has also drawn my attention to sections 5, 5-a, 20, 26 and rule 65(2). no doubt the sections mentioned by him do recognise the chief commissioner as one of the authorities charged with various functions under the act, but that hardly provides any justification for holding that he is a person appointed under section 3. rule 65(2) reads- (2) where the chief commissioner or any person appointed under section 3 proposes to revise or review any order of his own motion, he..........appeal and revision petition were filed and ultimately by an order dated 22nd november, 1956, the chief commissioner upheld the contention of the petitioners and decided that they were not dealers within the meaning of the said act and, therefore, not liable to pay sales tax on their building contract activities. the revenue applied to the chief commissioner under section 20(4) of the bengal finance (sales tax) act, 1941, for review of the decision dated 22nd november, 1956, and by his order dated 7th october, 1957, the chief commissioner held that he had inherent powers of review but dismissed the review petition as he found no merit in the same. in 1958 the supreme court decided in mithan lal v. state of delhi a.i.r. 1958 s.c. 682 that so far as the union territory of delhi is.....
Judgment:

S.K. Kapur, J.

1. This judgment will dispose of Civil Writ Petitions Nos. 396-D, 403-D and 405-D to 409-D of 1958. I am only confining myself to the facts of Civil Writ Petition No. 396-D of 1958 and it is agreed that decision in this petition will govern the other writ petitions.

2. The petitioners are building contractors carrying on business in Delhi. They did not get themselves registered as dealers under the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, as extended to Delhi, as their contention all along had been that they were not liable to pay sales tax on any of the sales, allegedly involved in the execution of building contracts. Notwithstanding their contention, the petitioners on 1st December, 1953, were assessed to sales tax and the amount levied was Rs. 3,547-9-0 for the quarters ending 31st December, 1952, and 31st March, 1953, and Rs. 798-10-0 for the quarter 1st April, 1953, to 30th June, 1953. Certain penalties were also levied, which were subsequently set aside, but since nothing turns on that fact it needs no elaboration. Appeal and revision petition were filed and ultimately by an order dated 22nd November, 1956, the Chief Commissioner upheld the contention of the petitioners and decided that they were not dealers within the meaning of the said Act and, therefore, not liable to pay sales tax on their building contract activities. The revenue applied to the Chief Commissioner under Section 20(4) of the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, for review of the decision dated 22nd November, 1956, and by his order dated 7th October, 1957, the Chief Commissioner held that he had inherent powers of review but dismissed the review petition as he found no merit in the same. In 1958 the Supreme Court decided in Mithan Lal v. State of Delhi A.I.R. 1958 S.C. 682 that so far as the Union territory of Delhi is concerned it was within the competence of the Legislature to levy tax on sales involved on building construction work. It appears that after the said decision of the Supreme Court the Chief Commissioner gave fresh notice on 3rd October, 1958, calling upon the petitioners to show cause why he should not review his order dated 22nd November, 1956. It is this notice that has been impugned by the present writ petition and it is pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioners that the Chief Commissioner having already decided that he has inherent powers of review, it is an idle formality to agitate this question before him and consequently the alternative remedy should be held to be no bar to the maintainability of the writ petition.I think there is sufficient justification for interference by way of a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.On behalf of the petitioners the following three contentions have been raised :-

(1) The Chief Commissioner has no power of review.

(2) Even if such a power inheres in him, it cannot be exercised to correct a mere error of law.

(3) The Chief Commissioner is not competent to review the order in view of bar of limitation as provided in Rule 66(2) of Delhi Sales Tax Rules, 1951.

4. I think the matter can be disposed of in favour of the petitioners on the first contention. It is not disputed that in view of the Full Bench decision of this Court in Deep Chand and Anr. v. Additional Director, Consolidation of Holdings, Punjab, Jullundur, and Anr. [1964] 66 P.L.R. 318 it is not open to the Chief Commissioner to review his order in exercise of any inherent powers. The short question that, therefore, remains to be decided is whether or not the Chief Commissioner has any such powers to review under the statute. The power to review is contained in Section 20, sub-Section (4), of the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, which is as under:-

Subject to such rules as may be prescribed, any assessment made or order passed under this Act or the rules made thereunder by any person appointed under Section 3 may be reviewed by the person passing it upon application or of his own motion.

5. It is said on behalf of the petitioners that the Chief Commissioner is not 'any person appointed under Section 3'. Section 3(1), which is the relevant part of the section reads-

(1) For carrying out the purposes of this Act, the Chief Commissioner may appoint a person to be Commissioner of Sales Tax, together with such other persons to assist him as the Chief Commissioner thinks fit.

6. The suggestion of the petitioners is that only the persons appointed by the Chief Commissioner are 'persons appointed under Section 3' within the meaning of Section 20(4) and the Chief Commissioner himself is not a person so appointed. The revenue, on the other hand, contends that I should depart from the letter of the law with a view to giving effect to the scheme and purport of the Act and I should therefore read the word 'appointed' in Section 20(4) as 'specified' or 'mentioned'. It is also suggested by the revenue that such a course is permissible whenever it becomes necessary to carry out the object and/or intention of the Legislature. It is no doubt true that even in construing fiscal statutes a just medium must always be drawn between a view of the revenue laws, which treats them as harsh enactments to be circumvented wherever possible, and a view under which such statutes acquire an expansive quality at the hands of the courts and may be made to reach out and bring within its purview, men and matters, which, it is only conjectured may have been within their intent. This requirement, however, does not in any way affect the principle applied in the interpretation of all fiscal statutes that whenever there is an ambiguity it must be resolved in favour of the subject. I would rather walk on the trodden path and hold that a burden of tax cannot be imposed upon a subject without use of clear and express language. There are serious difficulties in giving effect to the argument of Mr. Shankar, the learned counsel for the revenue. Section 3 authorises the Chief Commissioner to appoint a person to be Commissioner of Sales Tax together with such other persons to assist him and it cannot be read to mean that the Chief Commissioner himself is a person appointed under Section 3. If the Legislature intended that the power of review was being conferred on all the authorities mentioned in Section 3, it is fair to assume that they would have said so. If it is assumed for a moment that Mr. Shankar is right, a rather illogical result would ensue. The Chief Commissioner would in that case when exercising powers of review, be passing an order under Sub-section (4) of Section 20, an order immune from review by the High Court under Section 21 of the Act, for a reference on a point of law under Section 21 can only be made against an order passed by the Chief Commissioner under Sub-section (3) of Section 20. Mr. Shankar seeks to overcome this difficulty by suggesting that though the Chief Commissioner may be passing the order of review under Sub-section (4) of Section 20 yet it would be, in effect, an order under Sub-section (3) of that section being an order revising the order of the Commissioner. That argument, in my opinion, is rather far-fetched. Apart from the fact that I doubt whether so much straining is permissible while interpreting a fiscal statute, even the plain reading of the said two provisions, namely, Sub-sections (3) and (4) of Section 20, demonstrates the artificiality of the suggestion made on behalf of the revenue. Only one order revising the order of the Commissioner is contemplated under Sub-section (3) and it is that order and that order alone which can be made subject-matter of reference to the High Court. An order passed on review cannot but be an order made under Sub-section (4) of Section 20 as the Chief Commissioner by passing an order under Sub-section (3) exhausts his powers and is no more competent under that sub-section to pass another order. Am I then to hold that though the order passed in revision under Sub-section (3) of Section 20 is subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court on a point of law but the order passed on review by the Chief Commissioner is immune from scrutiny by the High Court I am unable to attribute such an intention to the Legislature, bound as it is to result in serious hardships and anomalies. I think the scheme of the Act is quite clear and it is this that the Chief Commissioner is the final revising authority in the hierarchy of tribunals constituted,under the Act and the order made by him can only be challenged by reference to the High Court. That seems to be the reason why the power of review has not been conferred on the Chief Commissioner. Rule 68(1) also lends support to the view I have taken. It enjoins the Commissioner or any other officer passing an order on review to record reasons. That rule specifically deals with review under Sub-section (4) of Section 20 and yet significantly omits any mention of the Chief Commissioner.

7. Mr. Shankar has also drawn my attention to Sections 5, 5-A, 20, 26 and Rule 65(2). No doubt the sections mentioned by him do recognise the Chief Commissioner as one of the authorities charged with various functions under the Act, but that hardly provides any justification for holding that he is a person appointed under Section 3. Rule 65(2) reads-

(2) Where the Chief Commissioner or any person appointed under Section 3 proposes to revise or review any order of his own motion, he shall give the dealer as well as the Assessing Authority an opportunity of being heard.

8. Far from supporting Mr. Shankar it seems to support the petitioners. If the Chief Commissioner was an authority appointed under Section 3 then there was no necessity to make a mention of the Chief Commissioner. In the result, I must hold that the Chief Commissioner has no power to review and, therefore, the notice given by him on 3rd October, 1958, is invalid and deserves to be quashed. It is, in the circumstances, not necessary to decide the other two contentions raised on behalf of the petitioners.

9. In the result, these petitions are allowed and notice dated 3rd October, 1958, is quashed with no order as to costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //