1. This reference under section 45 of the Delhi Sales Tax Act, 1975, raises a very short and interesting question. The question referred is :
'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, road traffic signalling equipment including blinkers as traffic equipment are electrical goods within the meaning of entry No. 18 of the First Schedule and turnover thereof taxable at 9 per cent under clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, as extended to the Union Territory of Delhi, at the relevant time ?'
2. The assessment year is 1969-70. The assessed, M/s. Envoys India (P.) Ltd., manufactures and sells electric welding sets, transformers, rectifiers, road traffic signalling equipmet, delay time relays, rectifier elements, electroplating machines, etc. It paid tax on its taxable turnover at the rate of 5 per cent. But the Sales Tax Officer was of the opinion that the items dealt in by the assessed should be treated as electrical goods which fell in entry No. 18 set out in the First Schedule to the Act and as such they were liable to tax at 9 per cent instead of 5 per cent. He observed that, in the absence of any specific meaning given to the expression 'electrical goods', it should be understood in the sense in which it was used in common parlance and all articles, the use of which could not be had except with the application of electric energy, could be termed as electrical goods or appliances. Applying this test, he came to the conclusion that eight items mentioned in his order constituted electrical goods. These included road traffic signalling equipments and their parts as well as blinkers also used in road traffic signalling equipment.
3. The assessed preferred an appeal to the Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax who confirmed the assessment. There was a revision to the Additional Commissioner of Sales Tax. It appears that before the Additional Commissioner the assessed had conceded that the goods in question were electrical goods but contended that these goods were exempted under the later part of entry No. 18 of the First Schedule which exempted 'electrical plant, equipment and their accessories including service meters required for generation, transmission and distribution'. The Additional Commissioner pointed out that this exemption would not apply to the assessed's goods and she held that, except for manual road traffic signals which were also sold by the assessed, all other items constituted electrical goods on which tax was chargeable at 9 per cent.
4. There was a further revision to the District Judge. It was contended for the assessed before the learned District Judge that in order that goods might be termed as electrical goods it was not merely sufficient to say that they could be operated only by means of electricity; it was further necessary that they should be a class of goods which are understood to be electrical goods by the trade. The learned District Judge held that 'rectifier stacks and elements, electroplating sets, delayed time relays, liquid level controllers, time recorders and safe trips' (which were the other items mentioned in the assessment order) could well be accepted to be electrical goods even though they were sold not to ordinary consumers but to other industries. This was because those industries treated these goods as electrical goods for use in their own factories. On the other hand so far as the traffic signalling equipment and blinkers were concerned, the learned District Judge was of the opinion that these did not constitute electrical goods as no trader or manufacturer believed them to be so. In popular understanding and commercial usage, traffic signalling equipment could not be treated as electrical goods.
5. The Commissioner of Sales Tax is aggrieved by the order of the learned District Judge and hence this reference.
6. On behalf of the Commissioner, it is contended that the road traffic signalling equipment and blinkers should be classified as electrical goods for the simple reason that not only are they operated by electrical energy, they cannot answer any other description because without such electrical operation they would amount to mere junk, useful for no other purpose. The learned counsel admitted that these goods did not constitute the normal run of electrical goods sold by commercial firms but argued that so far as the persons who manufactured them and the persons who purchased and utilised them were concerned, the goods would certainly answer this description. In support of his contention, the learned counsel relied upon a number of decisions.
7. On behalf of the assessed, it was suggested that the schedule picks out, for charging a higher rate of tax, goods which are in the nature of luxuries and that since the items here in question do not fall in the category, the higher rate of tax could not be charged. But there is no warrant for any assumption that any such classification between luxury goods and other goods was intended and all we have to see is whether the items in question can be described as electrical goods.
8. The question as to what types of goods can be properly described as electrical goods has come up for consideration in a number of cases. It is, however, not necessary to refer to all these decisions. It is sufficient to refer to two of the decisions which, we find, enunciate the principles that are to be applied for such determination of the issue. In Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Madurai v. Ravi Auto Stores  22 S.T.C. 172, the Madras High Court, relying upon earlier decisions of the same court, pointed out that before certain goods can be described as electrical goods, they must satisfy two tests : intrinsically, the goods in question must be electrical goods and secondly their use cannot be had without electrical energy and observed :
'Merely because an article cannot be used without electricity, it may not be decisive. It is necessary that, apart from that fact, the article, by its very nature, answers the description of 'electrical goods'.'
9. The learned Judges illustrated the decision by pointing out that motor cars cannot be described as electrical goods merely because they could not be operated without batteries or a dynamo. Likewise, in electroplating, a solution of silver and gold particles is used through which electricity is passed in the process of electroplating, but merely because that process cannot be had without the use of electricity, it cannot be said that the silver or gold particles are electrical goods by themselves. In that case the court was considering the question whether welding electrodes could be treated as electrical goods and this question was answered in the negative. In J. B. Advani-Oerlikon, Electrodes, Pvt. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Sales Tax, M.P.  30 S.T.C. 337, the Madhya Pradesh High Court was concerned with the same question and answered the question also in the same way. It was pointed out in the course of the judgment that in order to name an article as electrical goods, two things are necessary : (1) its use cannot be had without electrical energy; and (2) by its very nature it should answer the description of electrical goods.
10. We agree with the twin tests propounded in the above decisions. While, no doubt, primarily the question for consideration would be whether the particular goods can be operated otherwise than by electricity we agree that this test alone cannot be conclusive. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in the case of Ramavatar Budhaiprasad v. Assistant Sales Tax Officer, Akola : 1SCR279 and subsequent cases an expression used in such a statute should be understood in the sense which persons conversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing would attribute to it. The goods in question should also be intrinsically in the nature of electrical goods as understood by commercial men. We think that the road traffic signalling equipment in the present case answers one of the two requirements but not the other. It is true, as contended by the learned counsel for the applicant, that the traffic signalling equipment can be operated only by electrical energy and if not so operated, they cannot be useful for any other purpose. But at the same time, we are unable to say that this type of equipment will be understood by persons in the trade as electrical goods. They are not sold normally in the shops which deal in electrical goods. They are goods turned out by certain manufacturers for a special and limited purpose of being utilised by road traffic departments in various States. Unlike the other goods dealt in by the assessed they are not put to use in industries which treat them as electrical goods. It seems to us that even as between the persons who manufacture them and those who purchased and utilise them they are not looked upon as electrical goods. In fact, as was suggested on behalf of the respondent the traffic signalling equipment appears to be intrinsically in the nature of electronic goods which, as pointed out by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. v. State of Andhra Pradesh  47 S.T.C. 27 may not be the same goods as electrical goods.
11. We think that it will be straining the language of the statute, if we describe these items as electrical goods. In this regard, we think that a certain amount of assistance can be derived from the way in which certain other types of goods have been understood in judicial decisions, where similar expressions have been interpreted in a somewhat limited, rather than a comprehensive manner. Thus, for example, the Allahabad High Court has held that boxes would not be covered by the expression 'hardware', vide Commissioner of Sales Tax, U.P. v. Aftab Husain Imdad Husain  25 S.T.C. 471. Similarly, the expression 'glassware' has been held by this Court not to comprehend glass sheets and panes, vide Commissioner of Sales Tax, Delhi v. Baluja Glass Co.  46 S.T.C. 17. Again this Court has held in S.T.R. Nos. 34 and 35 of 1973 decided on 18th December, 1980 (Commissioner of Sales Tax v. India Neon Signs  48 S.T.C. 439, that neon lights put up for the purpose of advertisements cannot be described as electrical goods because the first test, referred to earlier, was not satisfied. These decisions furnish a certain amount of analogy, and show that such expressions should be interpreted not too literally but in such a way as to reflect the common understanding thereof in the trade and to which the entry refers. Looking at the matter from this point of view, we agree with the learned District Judge that road traffic signalling equipment and blinkers are not understood either in popular language or in commercial circles as being electrical goods.
12. We, thereforee, answer the question that has been referred to us in the negative and in favor of the assessed. As the Commissioner has failed, he will pay the costs of the reference. Counsel's fee Rs. 250.
13. Reference answered in the negative.
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