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Juginder Nursery Vs. Commissioner of Sales Tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberS.T. Ref. 4-D of 1958
Judge
Reported in[1966]18STC343(P& H)
AppellantJuginder Nursery
RespondentCommissioner of Sales Tax
Appellant Advocate G.S. Vohra and; M.K. Chawla, Advs.
Respondent Advocate S.N. Shankar and; N. Srinivasa Rao, Advs.
Cases ReferredDharmadas Paul v. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes
Excerpt:
.....sold in sealed containers). 2. the decision of this question depends ultimately on whether the word 'vegetable' in this item qualifies only the word 'seeds' or it qualifies the word 'plants' as well. i should, however, like to point out that there is no equity in the case of taxing statutes and they have to be reasonably interpreted on the plain meaning of the language used by the legislature. now, the long range objectives of all tax measures, it may be recalled, is the accomplishment of good social order and too stilted interpretation of tax laws with the sole object of giving benefit to the taxpayer may result in the loss of revenue at the expense of the state and may operate to the disadvantage of others contributing to its support. at the same time, when an assessee chooses to..........sold in sealed containers). 2. the decision of this question depends ultimately on whether the word 'vegetable' in this item qualifies only the word 'seeds' or it qualifies the word 'plants' as well. indeed, the assessee had in his application for reference formulated the question on these lines.3. the assessee in the present case carried on the business of growing and selling flower and other plants and it is contended on his behalf by shri vohra that the word 'plants' in the item in question is intended to be used as an independent category of exempted goods and it is not confined to vegetable plants only. it may be observed here that the assessee was assessed to sales tax on the sale of plants other than vegetable plants. in fairness to the learned counsel, i must state that he.....
Judgment:

Inder Dev Dua, J.

1. The short question falling for decision in this reference is whether flower plants are exempted under item No. 7 of the Second Schedule to the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, as extended to the Union territory of Delhi. Item No. 7 is in the following terms :-

Vegetables, green or dried and vegetable seeds and plants (other than medicinal preparations) (except when sold in sealed containers).

2. The decision of this question depends ultimately on whether the word 'vegetable' in this item qualifies only the word 'seeds' or it qualifies the word 'plants' as well. Indeed, the assessee had in his application for reference formulated the question on these lines.

3. The assessee in the present case carried on the business of growing and selling flower and other plants and it is contended on his behalf by Shri Vohra that the word 'plants' in the item in question is intended to be used as an independent category of exempted goods and it is not confined to vegetable plants only. It may be observed here that the assessee was assessed to sales tax on the sale of plants other than vegetable plants. In fairness to the learned counsel, I must state that he has not attempted to argue that the expression 'vegetable plants' would include 'flower plants', and indeed it is conceded that the Supreme Court has in Ramavatar Budhaiprasad v. The Assistant Sales Tax Officer [1961] 12 S.T.C. 286, authoritatively held that the word 'vegetables' as used in the C.P. and Berar Sales Tax Act, Schedule II, item No. 6, must be construed in its popular sense, meaning that sense which people conversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing would attribute to it. Thus construed, it was understood to denote class of vegetables which are grown in a kitchen garden or in a farm and are used for the table. The ratio of that decision is conceded to cover the present case. Since Shri Vohra has not contested this view, it is unnecessary to refer in detail to the cases cited by Shri S.N. Shankar on behalf of the revenue, namely Firm Shri Krishna Chaudhry v. Commissioner of Sales Tax, U.P. [1956] 7 S.T.C. 742 M.P. Pan Merchants' Association v. State of M.P. A.I.R. 1956 Nag. 54 and Kokil Ram v. Province of Bihar A.I.R. 1951 Pat. 367. It is equally unnecessary to refer to Dharmadas Paul v. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes [1958] 9 S.T.C 194 which has been sought to be distinguished by Shri Vohra.

4. Reading the plain language of item No. 7, I am unable to construe the word 'plants' as used therein to connote a distinct item wholly unconnected with or unrelated to the words 'vegetables, green or dried and vegetable seeds'. Looking at the scheme of the Second Schedule also, I do not think the Legislature intended to use the word 'plants' in the comprehensive sense suggested by Shri Vohra. Such a construction, in my opinion, does not conform to the scheme in which various items have been categorised as exempted goods in this Schedule. The expressions 'other than medicinal preparations' and 'except when sold in sealed containers' used after the word 'plants' in the item in question would also seem to me to indicate the intention of the law-maker to govern not only the word 'plants' but also the preceding categories of goods, namely, 'vegetables, green or dried and vegetable seeds', and if that be the true legislative scheme, it is difficult to impute to the Legislature an intention to use the word 'plants' as a distinct category of goods designed to include all kinds of plants, whether vegetable or otherwise. The opening word of this entry, namely, 'vegetables' seems to me also to supply the key to the legislative intent as to the meaning of this entry as a whole.

5. Shri Vohra has then contended that in the case of a taxing statute, the Court must place a strict construction in favour of the assessee and that unless the language of item No. 7 in the Second Schedule can be held without any doubt to be restricted only to vegetable plants, the assessee must get the benefit of the ambiguity in this language. In my opinion, the language used in the relevant item is quite clear and plain and is not capable of any other meaning than the one adopted by the Sales Tax Department. I should, however, like to point out that there is no equity in the case of taxing statutes and they have to be reasonably interpreted on the plain meaning of the language used by the Legislature. A strict or liberal construction is simply a means by which the scope of a statute is extended or restricted in order to convey the legislative meaning. Now, the long range objectives of all tax measures, it may be recalled, is the accomplishment of good social order and too stilted interpretation of tax laws with the sole object of giving benefit to the taxpayer may result in the loss of revenue at the expense of the State and may operate to the disadvantage of others contributing to its support. Of course, the charging Section must be quite clear and unambiguous because tax can only be imposed by authority of law and such law must accordingly be reasonably clear in its mandate. At the same time, when an assessee chooses to bring his case within an exemption from the imposition, it is for him to bring his case quite clearly within the language of the exemption. Broadly speaking, grants of tax exemption also attract a construction which is inspired by the Rule that the burdens of taxation should be distributed equally and fairly among the members of society. From whichever point of view the matter is considered, it appears that the word 'vegetable' is intended to qualify the word 'plants' as well.

6. For the foregoing reasons, our answer to the question referred is in favour of the revenue, namely, that flower plants are not exempted under item No. 7, Schedule II, to the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941. There would be no order as to costs of this reference.

R.P. Khosla, J.

7. I agree.


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