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Orient Paper Mills Ltd. Vs. Union of India (Uoi) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectExcise
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1970SC1498; 1978(2)ELT382(SC); (1970)3SCC76
ActsCentral Excises Act, 1944 - Sections 36
AppellantOrient Paper Mills Ltd.
RespondentUnion of India (Uoi)
Cases ReferredOrient Paper Mills Ltd. v. Union of India
Excerpt:
.....by directions of collector cannot be said to be independently made - appeal in such case to collector is an empty formality - consequently direction given by collector is invalid and proceedings before subordinate authorities are vitiated - held, appeal liable to be entertained on ground that impugned orders were vitiated. - labour & servicesappointment:[s.b.sinha & dr.mukundakam sharma,jj] post of peon - appellant was appointed on shoirt term vacancy for fixed period - name of appellant was wrongly placed in wait list for said regular post though another employee had secured higher marks - rectification of mistake by respondent resulted in deletion of appellants name from list - appellants name was not sponsored by employment exchange held, plea that he should have been..........item would be the same as under item 17(1). the collector of customs issued instructions to the deputy superintendent whose duty it was to make assessment of the appellant directing him to assess creamwove paper of a certain weight under item 17 (1) of the tariff at the rate of 50 up. per kg. with effect from september 5, 1961. by means of a letter dated september 7, 1961 the deputy superintendent informed the appellant that in accordance with the decision of the competent authority creamwove paper of the weights mentioned in the letter would be assessable as cartridge paper under item 17 (1) of the tariff in the schedule. it was further stated that: i have also been directed to serve demands for short levy of excise duty on past clearances of creamwove paper where due.the deputy.....
Judgment:

A.N. Grover, J.

1. All these appeals by special leave against the orders made by the Central Government under Section 36 of the Central Excise and Salt Act, 1944, hereinafter called the 'Act' involve common question and shall stand disposed of by this judgment.

2. The facts and circumstances relating to C.A. 976 of 1966 may alone be stated. 'The appellant carries on. business, inter alia, of manufacturing and soiling various kinds of paper and boards at its factory at Brajajnagar in the district of Sambalpur in the State of Orissa. It manufactures various types and qualities of paper. It is stated that there are three types of paper which are principally manufactured. These are creamwove paper, map litho paper and writing paper. In the appeal the facts of which are under consideration we are concerned with creamwove paper on which excise duty was levied. From the year 1960 till July 1961 creamwove paper was being assessed as printing and writing paper under Item 17 (3) of the First Schedule to the Act, the rate being 35 np. per kg. Sometimes in July 1961 the Central Excise authorities required the appellant to send samples of the said paper to the Chemical Examiner of the Central Excise authorities for the purpose of chemical test. The appellant received a letter dated August 10, 1941 from the Superintendent, Central Excise. In a footnote it was stated that this paper of gram weight 116 and above per sq. meter was to be assessed under Item 17 (1) in view of the Chemical Examiner's report. It is not disputed that the rate under that Item would be the same as under item 17(1). The Collector of Customs issued instructions to the Deputy Superintendent whose duty it was to make assessment of the appellant directing him to assess creamwove paper of a certain weight under item 17 (1) of the tariff at the rate of 50 up. per kg. with effect from September 5, 1961. By means of a letter dated September 7, 1961 the Deputy Superintendent informed the appellant that in accordance with the decision of the competent authority creamwove paper of the weights mentioned in the letter would be assessable as cartridge paper under Item 17 (1) of the tariff in the Schedule. It was further stated that:

I have also been directed to serve demands for short levy of excise duty on past clearances of creamwove paper where due.

The Deputy Superintendent addressed another letter dated September 13, 1961 to the same effect. It was added therein that map litho paper weighting 85 grams per sq. metre and above was also to be taken as cartridge paper for the purpose of assessment under Item 17 (1) as per the decision of the competent authority. On September 19, 1961 the appellant made an inquiry from the deputy Superintendent as to the basis on which classification in the matter of assessment of duty had been made. The Deputy Superintendent sent the following reply on September 20, 1961. . I am to inform you that the classifications as intimated to you in respect of the above-mentioned varieties of paper are as per decision of the competent authority.

It was further admitted in the letter of the Asstt. Collector, Cuttack to the Collector, Central Excise dated April 7, 1962 that the classification of the paper in question was made under Item 17(1) of the tariff as cartridge paper in accordance with instructions contained in the Collectors letter of September 5, 1961. The Deputy Superintendent had made the assessment accordingly. As regards the copy of the Chemical Examiner's Report it was stated that the matter had been referred to the higher authorities.

3. The Deputy Superintendent, Central Excise, had collected the excise duty on creamwove paper in accordance with Item 17(1) of the tariff for the months of June and July 1962. The appellant lodged a claim with the Assistant Collector of Central Excise for refund of Rs. 38,809.81 being the sum assessed is excess. The Asstt. Collector rejected the claim on the ground that (sic) charge had been made. The appellant then appealed under Section 35 of the Act to the Collector of Central Excise and Customs which was rejected by him. The Central Government was thereafter approached under Section 36 on the revisional side. The revision petition was dismissed by an order made in the following terms :

The Government of India have carefully considered all the points made by the applicants, but they regret that they do not find any justification for interfering with the Order-in-Appeal, which is correct in law and based on facts. The revision petition is accordingly rejected.

4. Now it is common ground, it being admitted in the statement of case filed on behalf of the respondent that 'the paper was assessed to duty in accordance with the instructions from the Collector. The main question is whether an assessment made by a subordinate officer in accordance with the instructions issued by the Collector to whom an appeal lay against the order of that sub ordinate officer can be called a valid assessment in the eye of law. As has been pointed out in Orient Paper Mills Ltd. v. Union of India, : 1973ECR1(SC) in which the parties were the same as before us now no authority, however high, can control the decision of a judicial or a quasi-judicial authority that being the essence of our judicial system. In the present case, when the assessment is to be made by the Deputy Superintendent or the Assistant Collector, the Collector, to whom an appeal lies against his order of assessment, cannot control or fetter his judgment in the matter of assessment. If the Collector issues directions by which the Deputy Superintendent of the Assistant Collector is bound no room is left for the exercise of his own independent judgment.

5. According to the learned Attorney General, the assessment proceedings are not of a quasi-judicial nature nor is the assessing authority a quasi-judicial authority. We are unable to agree. It is apparent from the judgment referred to above and numerous other decisions of this Court delivered in respect of various taxation laws that the assessing authorities exercise quasi-judicial function and they have duty cast on them to act in a judicial and independent manner. If their judgment is controlled by the directions given by the Collector it cannot be said to be their independent judgment in any sense of the word. An appeal then to the Collector becomes an empty formality. In the previous decision of this Court mentioned above the appeal and the revision had been rejected by the Collector and the Central Government on the ground that a direction had been issued by the Central Board of Revenue to the effect that the paper in question be treated as belonging to a particular classification. This Court entertained no doubt that the direction given by the Board was invalid and it vitiated the proceedings before the Collector as well as the Government. Similarly, in the present appeal the direction given by the Collector was invalid and the proceedings before the Deputy Superintendent or the Assistant Collector were vitiated. This position obtains in all the appeals although the type and quality of paper are different. The Central Government merely affirmed the order made by the Collector in each case and did not give any independent reasons for upholding the levy of duty made in accordance with the directions of the Collector.

6. It is unnecessary to deal with other points raised on behalf of the appellant because, in our opinion these appeals must succeed on the ground that the impugned orders were vitiated for the reasons given and deserve to be set aside. We accordingly quash these orders. The assessing authorities, namely, the Deputy Superintendent or the Assistant Collector shall make fresh assessment of duty in accordance with law and thereafter the question of refund will be decided by the appropriate authorities. Appeals are thus allowed with costs. One hearing fee.


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