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Dina Nath and Sons and anr. Vs. the Sales Tax Officer and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ No. 1247 of 1972
Judge
Reported in[1976]37STC356a(Delhi)
AppellantDina Nath and Sons and anr.
RespondentThe Sales Tax Officer and ors.
Appellant Advocate R.C. Chawla and; Nawal Kishore, Advs
Respondent Advocate M.C. Bhandare, Sr. Adv. and ; P.N. Tiwari, ; Balram Sangal
Cases ReferredState of Assam v. Ramesh Chandra Dey
Excerpt:
- - -the power to levy sales tax has been enjoyed by the legislature of the provinces under the government of india act 1935, and the legislatures of the states under the constitution. 290, their lordships observed that the relevant provisions in the sales tax acts in force in the states of madras, mysore, andhra pradesh and uttar pradesh definitely and clearly indicated the stage at which the tax is to be levied either on purchase or on sale. a brief examination of the relevant provisions of some of these acts would, thereforee, better enable us to understand the ratio of the supreme court decision in bhawani cotton mills' case [1967] 20 s. it is now well-settled that even under the sales tax laws, the charge in respect of a sale or purchase becomes effective as soon as the sale in.....v.s. deshpande, j.1. clause (3) of article 286 of the constitution enacts that 'any law of a state shall, in so far as it imposes, or authorises the imposition of, a tax on the sale or purchase of goods declared by parliament by law to be of a special importance in inter-state trade or commerce, be subject to such restrictions and conditions in regard to the system of levy, rates and other incidents of the tax as parliament may by law specify'. accordingly, section 15(a) of the central sales tax act, 1956 (hereinafter called the central act), lays down the restrictions and conditions in regard to tax on sale or purchase of declared goods within a state in the following words:every sales tax law of a state shall, in so far as it imposes or authorises the imposition of a tax on the sale or.....
Judgment:

V.S. Deshpande, J.

1. Clause (3) of Article 286 of the Constitution enacts that 'any law of a State shall, in so far as it imposes, or authorises the imposition of, a tax on the sale or purchase of goods declared by Parliament by law to be of a special importance in inter-State trade or commerce, be subject to such restrictions and conditions in regard to the system of levy, rates and other incidents of the tax as Parliament may by law specify'. Accordingly, Section 15(a) of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 (hereinafter called the Central Act), lays down the restrictions and conditions in regard to tax on sale or purchase of declared goods within a State in the following words:

Every sales tax law of a State shall, in so far as it imposes or authorises the imposition of a tax on the sale or purchase of declared goods, be subject to the following restrictions and conditions, namely:-- (a) the tax payable under that law in respect of any sale or purchase of such goods inside the State shall not exceed three per cent of the sale or purchase price thereof, and such tax shall not be levied at more than one stage....

2. Among certain goods to be of special importance in inter-State trade or commerce so declared by Section 14 is included 'cotton yarn', the levy of sales tax on the inter-State sale of which is the subject-matter of these writ petitions. In Civil Writ No. 1247 of 1972 (Dina Nath & Sons v. Sales Tax Officer) and Civil Writ No. 350 of 1973 (Ramesh Trading Company v. Sales Tax Officer) the petitioners pray that the assessments of sales tax for the year 1969-70 made against them in respect of the sale prices of cotton yarn under the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, as extended to Delhi (hereinafter called the Delhi Act) should be quashed. They contend that the declared goods are liable to be taxed at more than one stage under the Delhi Act. This being contrary to the provisions of Section 15(a) of the Central Act, no liability at all arises against the petitioners for the payment of sales tax on these declared goods even once or at one stage. They contend that they are not liable to pay any sales tax at all in view of the provisions of the Delhi Act being incompatible with the provisions of Section 15(a) of the Central Act.

3. This view of the provisions of the Delhi Act contended for in the writ petitions mentioned above was accepted by the Financial Commissioner in (1) Gobind Saran Ganga Saran v. State (Revisions Nos. 234 and 384 of 1972) decided on 13th February, 1973, and (2) Raj Trading Company v. State (Revisions Nos. 319 to 322 of 1972) decided on 13th February, 1973. The Commissioner of Sales Tax has, thereforee, filed Civil Writ No. 460 of 1973 {Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Financial Commissioner and Gobind Saran Ganga Saran) and Civil Writ No. 553 of 1973 (Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Financial Commissioner and Raj Trading Company) praying that the above-mentioned orders of the Financial Commissioner for the assessment years 1968-69 in Civil Writ No. 460 of 1973 and 1966-67 and 1967-68 in Civil Writ No. 553 of 1973 be quashed inasmuch as the provisions of the Delhi Act are in conformity with the restrictions and conditions imposed on the Delhi Act by Section 15(a) of the Central Act and respondent No. 2 in each of the writ petitions was liable to the assessment of sales tax on the sale of the declared goods made by them in Delhi. These four writ petitions were heard together.

4. The following grounds were advanced by Mr. Ashok Sen and Mr. R.C. Chawla for denying the liability of the assesseds to be assessed to any sales tax on the sale of the declared goods in Delhi by the assesseds:

(1) The Delhi Act does not fix the stage at which the sale of the cotton yarn is liable to the payment of sales tax in Delhi with the result that such tax is liable to be levied at more than one stage in a series of sales contrary to Section 15(a) of the Central Act.

(2) Under the provisions of the Delhi Act, a dealer or a registered dealer selling cotton yarn would not know whether the said cotton yarn has been already subjected to payment of sales tax in a previous sale and in the absence of such knowledge he would be made liable to the payment of sales, tax over it again contrary to Section 15(a) of the Central Act.

(3) A dealer or a registered dealer would be bound to include sales of cotton yarn in his taxable turnover under the provisions of the Delhi Act in the absence of any provision enabling him to exclude the same from being shown as taxable turnover on the ground that the cotton yarn has been already subjected to sales tax in a previous sale thus making such cotton yarn liable to sales tax at more than one stage contrary to Section 15(a) of the Central Act.

5. Mr. M.C. Bhandare assisted by Mr. Wazir Singh for the Commissioner of Sales Tax controverter each of the above contentions. He pointed out that Section 15(a) of the Central Act did not require the State Sales Tax Act to state whether the stage at which the sales tax was to be levied on the declared goods was to be the first sale or the last sale. All that was needed was to read the taxing provision to know from it the stage at which the sales tax was to be levied. Under Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Delhi Act it is the last sale of the declared goods which would be taxable inasmuch as it would be a sale by a registered dealer to an unregistered dealer or a consumer. At this stage, the declared goods will pass out of the stream of commerce or the series of sales to which they may be subjected inside Delhi. For, if the unregistered dealer were to sell these goods again, neither was any sales tax livable on the sale price realised by him nor was he authorised to collect such a sales tax from his purchaser. If the consumer were to sell the declared goods to someone else the question of imposition of sales tax on such a sale would not arise at all as the consumer was not a dealer who carried on the business of selling these goods. The stage of taxation was thus fixed as the stage of the last sale. Secondly, because the sales tax would be levied only on a sale which is made to an unregistered dealer or a consumer, any registered dealer who purchases these goods again from an unregistered dealer or a consumer was bound to know that the sale must have suffered the levy of sales tax when the unregistered dealer or the purchaser bought it. He would, thereforee, naturally ask him if the sale of goods to him had been the subject-matter of the levy of sales tax. He was indeed bound to make such an inquiry inasmuch as Section 5(2)(a)(ii) made it clear to everybody that only a sale to an unregistered dealer or a consumer was the sale which was liable to be taxed. If, thereforee, the registered dealer who had purchased these goods from an unregistered dealer or a consumer were to sell these goods again to an unregistered dealer or a consumer, such registered dealer would not be liable to the levy of sales tax on such a sale inasmuch as the declared goods would be known to have suffered the levy of sales tax to the knowledge of such a registered dealer. Thirdly, once the sale of declared goods to an unregistered dealer or a consumer has suffered the levy of sales tax, a registered dealer who purchases such goods from an unregistered dealer or a consumer but sells them again to an unregistered dealer or a consumer need not show such a sale in his gross turnover inasmuch as the liability to the levy of sales tax does not arise at all. It is only if the liability had arisen but some deduction had to be made from the gross turnover to show that such goods were not to form part of the taxable turnover of such a registered dealer that it would have been necessary for the registered dealer to show such a sale in his gross turnover. For, there is difference between the liability to the levy of sales tax and the liability to be assessed for the payment of sales tax. The sales of declared goods which have already suffered a levy of sales tax on a previous sale would have been required to be shown in the gross turnover only if the price of such a sale had to be deducted from the gross turnover to arrive at the taxable turnover. Since, however, the liability to levy of sales tax itself is absent, the sale price of declared goods which have been already subjected to sales tax in a previous sale does not have to be shown even in the gross turnover.

6. The points in controversy between the parties, thereforee, relate to three aspects of the levy of sales tax on declared goods, namely: (1) Stage of the taxation, (2) Knowledge about the taxation, and (3) Exclusion from the taxation.

7. We now proceed to consider each of these three aspects in the light of the arguments addressed by the learned Counsel.

1. Stage of the taxation.-The power to levy sales tax has been enjoyed by the Legislature of the Provinces under the Government of India Act 1935, and the Legislatures of the States under the Constitution. Neither under the said Act nor under the Constitution was there any limitation placed on the powers of the State Legislatures to impose sales tax on goods at more than one stage in the series of sales to which such goods may be subjected in each stage. Whether the goods would be taxed only at one stage or at more than one stage depended entirely on the provisions of the particular State sales tax law. In a recent Division Bench decision of this Court in Fitwell Engineers v. Financial Commissioner, Delhi Administration [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66 (Civil Writ No. 590 of 1973 decided on 26th April, 1974) to which one of us (Deshpande, J.) was a party, it was pointed out that in this respect the State sales tax laws were of two types, namely, (a) those which imposed sales tax only at one stage, and (b) those which imposed sales tax at more than one stage. The former was single point levy, the latter being multi-point levy system of sales tax. Parliament showed its awareness of this state of affairs when the original Section 15(a) of the Central Sales Tax Act 1956, as it existed before its amendment in 1958 laid down that the tax payable under a State sales tax law in respect of any sale or purchase of goods winch were declared to be of special importance in inter-State trade or commerce shall be levied only in respect of the last sale or purchase inside the State. Parliament thereby recognised that under certain State sales tax laws sales tax was livable at more than one stage. It restricted the levy of such sales tax on the declared goods only to the last stage. This was because after the last stage of sale or purchase the goods would pass out of the series of sales and purchases or the stream of commerce. The last sale or purchase would be either by a dealer or by a consumer. A subsequent sale or purchase by such a dealer or a consumer would not be liable to the levy of sales tax. The old Section 15 of the Central Act is, thereforee, significant to show that firstly multi-point levy of sales tax laws existed and, secondly, that after the stage of the last sale or purchase, the goods would not be liable to sale or purchase tax under a State sales tax law.

8. In 1958, Section 15 of the Central Act was amended. In Section 15(a) the provision that the levy of tax would be restricted to the last sale or purchase was substituted by the provision that 'such tax shall not be levied at more than one stage'. The reason for the amendment seems to be that Parliament did not think it fit to restrict all the State sales tax laws to the stage of last sale or purchase in imposing sales tax on the goods. For, under the scheme of certain State sales tax laws before the restriction was imposed by the old Section 15(a), sales tax may be livable at a stage earlier than the stage of the last sale or purchase. Similarly, certain State sales tax laws might prefer to impose sales or purchase tax on the first sale or purchase in respect of the declared goods even if the sales tax on the other goods was levied on the last sale or purchase. It was with a view to leave the State Legislatures free to fix the stage at which sales or purchase tax should be levied on declared goods that the amendment of Section 15(a) made in 1958 simply stated the principle that the tax shall not be levied at more than one stage. Another significance of the amendment is that Parliament realised that it was not necessary to state the stage of taxation as being the last sale or purchase (or for the matter of that the first sale or purchase). For, even without the use of the word 'last' or the word 'first' the provision of the Sales Tax Act concerned can itself indicate whether the tax would be livable on the last or the first sale. As pointed out in Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66 by this Court, the sales tax was livable on the last sale under Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Delhi Act because of the single point levy system adopted in that provision. The court was concerned in that case to point out that the first sale to a registered dealer was exempted under Section 5(2)(a)(ii) and, thereforee, the court used the expression 'second sale' to denote the point at which sales tax could be levied there under. But that expression has to be understood to mean 'the last sale' inasmuch as the last sale could be either the second sale or the third or the fourth one depending on how long the series of sales to registered dealers went on. If the first registered dealer sold the goods to an unregistered dealer or a consumer, then the second sale itself would be taxable under Section 5(2)(a)(ii). But if the said registered dealer sold to another registered dealer who claimed exemption from sales tax and after such exemption the said registered dealer still sold to another registered dealer who also claimed exemption from sales tax, then the series of sales would be prolonged and the tax would be livable on the third or the fourth or the fifth sale. It is, thereforee, more convenient to refer to the taxable sale as the last sale which may be any sale from the second sale onwards depending on when the series of sales to registered dealers comes to an end.

9. The sales tax laws of the States had existed from before the Constitution. Sales taxes were levied under them either on the first or the last sales. The object of the amendment of Section 15(a) of the Central Act in 1958 was not to create a conflict between the Central Act and the State sales tax laws. Had Section 15(a) not been amended in 1958, the State sales tax laws would have been required to be so worded as to ensure that the declared goods there under were taxed only at the stage of the last sale or purchase. Such a step would have been unnecessary because all that Parliament was interested was to ensure that the declared goods were taxed only at one stage. It was of no concern to Parliament whether the point of levy was the first sale or purchase or the last one. This object was ensured by the amendment of Section 15(a) of the Central Act in 1958.

10. The principle as to how the Central Act was to be construed in relation to the State sales tax laws was laid down by the Supreme Court in Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills Co. Ltd. v. Commissioner of Sales Tax : [1965]1SCR592 . While construing the amended Section 15(a) as carrying out the intention of Article 286(3) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court observed as follows:

The meaning or the intention of Clause (3) of Article 286 is not to destroy all charging sections in the Sales Tax Acts of the States which are discrepant with Section 15(a) of the Central Sales Tax Act, but to modify them in accordance therewith. The law of the State is declared to be subject to the restrictions and conditions contained in the law made by Parliament.

11. Every State sales tax law was, thereforee, left free in its own way to ensure that the tax on declared goods was not levied at more than one stage. Apparently, there would be two ways in which a State sales tax law may fix the stage of taxation. One way is to state that the first or the last sale or purchase would be taxable irrespective of the question as to who was the seller or the purchaser. Another way was to indicate the person in whose hands the sale or purchase would be taxable. The former one would be perhaps more suitable to multi-point sales tax laws while the latter one would be found perhaps more suitable to single point sales tax laws, though either of the methods could be adopted in any of these two systems of sales tax laws. In Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66, this Court analysed Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Delhi Act fully and came to the conclusion that its object was to ensure a single point levy of sales tax in the State of Delhi. It was emphasised that the sale to a registered dealer who could claim exemption from payment of sales tax was exempted only because it was expected that the said registered dealer after having secured the exemption would sell the goods in Delhi either to an unregistered dealer or to a consumer so that the said sale would be taxable in Delhi and, thus, the goods would be taxed at least at one stage in Delhi. In that case the court mentally compared Section 5(2)(a)(vi) of the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948, with Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Delhi Act and found them substantially similar. The analogous provision in the Orissa Act was also similar. The court, thereforee, observed that these provisions ensured a single point levy of sales tax. In that case, the attention of the court was not invited to the provision of Section 5(2)(a)(vi) of the Punjab Act, which is as follows:

In this Act the expression 'taxable turnover' means that part of a dealer's gross turnover during any period which remains after deducting there from....

(vi) the purchase of goods which are sold not later than six months after the close of the year....

12. This limitation that the sale must take place not later than six months after the close of the year is peculiar to the Punjab Act. Its effect is that even though the goods have been taxed once, they would be liable to tax again if they are sold later than six months after the close of the year in which the purchase has taken place. This provision of the Punjab Act leads to multi-point levy of sales tax.

13. In Bhawani Cotton Mills Ltd. v. State of Punjab [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290, the question for consideration before the Supreme Court was whether the provisions of the Punjab Act were in consonance with Section 15(a) of the Central Act in view of Clause (vi) of Section 5(2)(a) of the said Act. At page 300 of the Reports, the High Court had recognised that 'no proper machinery has been provided either in the principal Act or in the Rules framed there under to ensure that each successive purchaser knows whether tax has been levied or is livable on any purchaser through whom the goods have already passed at a prior stage'. The High Court, however, did not invalidate the impugned provisions of the Punjab Act because it was open to each purchaser to claim a refund of the tax already deposited by him if he is not liable to pay under the provisions of Sub-clause (vi) of Section 5(2)(a) and it was entirely a question of proving certain facts by evidence that refund is due and ought, to be made. At pages 326 and 327 of the Reports, the Supreme Court pointed out that the High Court was itself impressed by the difficulties in the actual working of the Act. The Supreme Court did not accept the view of the High Court that a provision for refund was sufficient answer to the incompatibility of certain provisions of the Punjab Act with Section 15(a) of the Central Act. At page 328 of the Reports is to be found the ratio of the decision of the Supreme Court. The court pointed out that the State Sales Tax Act itself must 'make it very clear that there will be no levy or collection of tax, except from the persons who are bound to pay, as per the Central Act. It is here that there is considerable difficulty caused by the absence of any provisions, either in the Act or in the Rules or the forms, indicating the stage at which the tax is to be levied'. When the court proceeded to say that the State Sales Tax Act or the Rules framed there under must prescribe a 'single point for taxation', the question arises whether their Lordships intended that the State Act must mention whether it is the first sale or the last sale, which is to be taxed. It was contended for the assesseds that unless the first or the last sale was itself indicated in the State Sales Tax Act, the State Sales Tax Act would not be in consonance with Section 15(a) of the Central Act and that this was the meaning of the above-mentioned observation of the Supreme Court. We are unable to agree with this contention. For, Section 15(a) of the Central Act itself does not require that the State Sales Tax Act must say in so many words that the first or the last sale is liable to be taxed in respect of the declared goods. All that Section 15(a) as amended in 1958 requires is that the declared goods should not be taxed at more than one stage. As laid down by the Supreme Court in Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills' case [1965] 1 S.C.R. 592, the rule of construction of Section 15(a) of the Central Act with the relevant provisions of the State Sales Tax Acts is that the provisions of the latter are subject to the restrictions imposed by the former. The two are to be read harmoniously. The Central Act does not destroy the State Act. thereforee, in Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills' case [1965] 1 S.C.R. 592, even though a notification by the State Government under Section 5 of the Punjab Act could prescribe a rate of 4 per cent for the taxation of the concerned declared goods, the Act was not invalidated. On the contrary, Section 15(a) of the Central Act was read with the State Act and the effect of the State Act and the notification issued there under was modified to read that the rate of tax levied there under was 2 per cent and not 4 per cent. A perusal of the further observation of the Supreme Court in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 (S.C), at pages 328 and 329, brings out that the court did not intend to say that the State Sales Tax Act must state that either the first or the last sale was to be taxed. On the other hand, their Lordships construed Section 15(a) of the Central Act to mean that the State Sales Tax Act has only to ensure that the declared goods are not taxed at more than one stage. This could be done by the scheme of the taxing provision and even without using the words 'first' or 'last' sale or purchase as indicating the stage of the taxation. At page 329, their Lordships observed as follows:

Sub-clause (vi) of Section 5(2)(a) negatives the assumption that the normal rule, under the Act, in respect of declared goods is to levy the tax on the first purchaser.

14. The expression 'normal rule' shows that the rule was inferred from the provisions of the Act even without the use of the words 'first purchaser'. The decision of the Supreme Court in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 (S.C), thereforee, does not support the contention of the assesseds that Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Delhi Act is incompatible with Section 15(a) of the Central Act merely because it does not state that the last sale, namely, the sale to an unregistered dealer or a consumer was taxable there under even though, as pointed out in Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66, this was the effect of a proper reading of Section 5(2)(a)(ii).

15. At page 325 of the Reports in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290, their Lordships observed that the relevant provisions in the Sales Tax Acts in force in the States of Madras, Mysore, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh definitely and clearly indicated the stage at which the tax is to be levied either on purchase or on sale. A brief examination of the relevant provisions of some of these Acts would, thereforee, better enable us to understand the ratio of the Supreme Court decision in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290.

16. Section 6 of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1957, lays down that the sales tax on declared goods would be levied in accordance with the provisions of Schedule III to that Act. The said schedule enumerates the items of the declared goods which are taxable and indicates the stage of taxation against each of them. Against some items the stage of taxation is prescribed to be the first or the last purchase. Against other items the indication of the stage is given not by the use of the words 'first' or 'last' but by characterising the purchaser. For instance, item No. 6, 'groundnuts' was taxable 'when purchased by a miller other than a decorticating miller in the State'. In State of Andhra Pradesh v. Lakshmi Oil Mills, Bhongir [1967] 20 S.T.C. 489, it was contended for the assessed that this provision was contrary to Section 15(a) of the Central Act inasmuch as the stage of taxation was not specified by the use of the word 'first' before the word 'miller'. This argument was rejected by a Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court consisting of P. Jaganmohan Reddy, C.J., and Krishna Rao, J., who held that even without the use of the word 'first' before the word 'miller', the language of the schedule indicated that it was the purchase by the first miller, which was to be taxed if the said miller was not a decorticating miller. This view was upheld by the Supreme Court in Sri Venkateswam Rice, Ginning and Groundnut Oil Mill Contractors Co. v. State of Andhra Pradesh [1971] 28 S.T.C. 599 of the Reports, Hegde, J., observed as follows:

It is now well-settled that even under the sales tax laws, the charge in respect of a sale or purchase becomes effective as soon as the sale in the case of sales tax and purchase in the case of purchase tax is made, though the liability of the dealer can be computed only at the end of the year.... To restate the position, whenever a miller purchases groundnut, the turnover relating to that purchase becomes exigible to tax subject to such exemptions as may be given under the Act....

It was urged on behalf of the assesseds that if we place that interpretation then even the turnovers relating to subsequent purchases of the same groundnut made by the other millers would become exigible to tax despite the fact that only a single point purchase tax is livable under the Act. It was further urged that we should not read into item 6 of the Third Schedule the word 'first' before the word 'miller' under column 2 thereof. We see no merit in these contentions. Quite clearly in view of Section 14 and Section 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act and Section 6 of the Act, purchase of groundnut can be taxed only at one stage. Once a particular quantity of groundnut has been subjected to payment of tax, the State's power to tax in respect of those goods gets exhausted and any further dealing in those goods cannot be brought to tax. This is clear from the scheme of the Act. There was no need for the legislature to say 'when purchased by first miller' in column 2 of item 6 of the Third Schedule, because from the language employed therein, it is clear that the first purchase becomes exigible to tax and in view of Section 6 of the Act, the subsequent purchases of the same goods cannot be subjected to tax.

17. The Second Schedule to the Madras Act serves the same purpose in the same way. So does Section 5(4) of the Mysore Act.

18. The same view was expressed in another Division Bench decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Rafeeq Ahmed and Company v. State of Andhra Pradesh [1969] 24 S.T.C. 430., on similar language in respect of another declared goods, namely, 'hides and skins' in the Third Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh Act.

19. Two Constitution Benches of the Supreme Court consisting of two common members, namely, Subba Rao, C.J., and Shah, J., decided two cases on 10th April, 1967. The first was Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 referred to above. The second was Devi Dass Gopal Krishnan v. State of Punjab [1967] 20 S.T.C. 430. It was argued at page 447 by the assessed that the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948, was in conflict with Section 15 of the Central Act inasmuch as it enabled the levy of sales tax at more than one stage. This argument was rejected by the Constitution Bench after referring to the observation of the Court in the previous decision in Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills' case : [1965]1SCR592 , which we have already cited above. Referring to the decision in Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills' case : [1965]1SCR592 , their Lordships observed as follows, at page 449:

The effect of this judgment is that the stage prescribed under Section 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act before the amendment and the prohibition against taxation at more than one stage contained in the amended section would automatically control the provisions of the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948. With the result up to October 1, 1958, under the State Sales Tax Act a tax could be levied only in respect of purchase of declared goods inside the State and only on the purchases made by a dealer of goods for use by him in the manufacture of goods; and from October 1, 1958, the State can only levy tax at one stage. For the second period the Central Act by its own force did not fix the stage.... It follows from the said discussion that the Punjab General Sales Tax Act, during the crucial period which is the subject-matter of these appeals, in terms fixed a stage for taxation, i.e., the stage of purchase by a dealer for use in the manufacture of goods.

20. It is important to note that the decision in Devi Dass Gopal Krishnan's case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 430 considered the same Punjab Act, which was considered in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290, but arrived at the conclusion that Section 15 of the Central Act has to be read with the provisions of the Punjab Act with the result that the stage of the taxation in the Punjab Act is automatically fixed without the use of the words 'first' or 'last' sale or purchase.

21. On behalf the assesseds an attempt was made to argue that Section 5-A had to be inserted in the Delhi Act by an amendment in 1959 to enable the Chief Commissioner to prescribe points at which goods may be taxed. Section 5-A is as follows:

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, the Chief Commissioner may, by notification in the official Gazette, specify the points in the series of sales by successive dealers at which any goods or class of goods may be taxed.

22. It was argued that unless and until a notification is issued under Section 5-A in respect of cotton yarn, the stage at which it is to be taxed remains indefinite. It was pointed out that such a notification had been issued in respect of 'coal', which was one of the declared goods, on 18th January, 1963. This argument is also unacceptable. The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) (Delhi Amendment) Act, 1959 (Act 20 of 1959) stated that the bill sought to amend the law to give effect, inter alia, to the following object, namely:

(f) to provide for the levy of tax at any point other than the point of last sale so that sales tax may be levied at the first point on certain items, which are manufactured in factories.

23. The authoritative statement by the Government accepted by Parliament shows that the Government and Parliament understood that the tax under the Delhi Act was livable on the last sale. This view accords with the view expressed by this Court in Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66. This also supports the arguments of the Government in the present case that even though Section 5(2)(a)(ii) does not use the word 'last' also, the effect of the scheme of the said provisions is to subject only the last sales to taxation. It is to be noted that nowhere in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Amendment Bill of 1959 it is stated that the object of the amendment was to make definite the stage of taxation either generally or in respect of the declared goods. We have already stated above that even the Supreme Court has expressed the view that it is not necessary to use the words 'first sale' or 'last sale' to make the stage of taxation definite. The stage could be defined without the use of such words. Full reasons have been given in Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66 to show that Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Delhi Act ensures that the sales tax would be levied only when a registered dealer sells to an unregistered dealer or a consumer which would be the last sale in a series of sales. The sales tax would not be levied on earlier sales to registered dealers who could claim exemption in respect of such sales in the registration certificate.

24. It was argued for the assesseds that reference was made at page 328 of the Reports of the Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 by the Supreme Court to cases 'where a non-registered dealer may have intervened'. It was argued that after the last sale by a registered dealer to an unregistered dealer or to a consumer it is possible that such an unregistered dealer or a consumer may sell the same goods back to a registered dealer. It was further possible that such a registered dealer would again sell the goods to an unregistered dealer or to a consumer and in such an eventuality the declared goods would be subjected to tax even though they had been taxed before. This is a fanciful argument which is untenable. Firstly, their Lordships of the Supreme Court have pointed out immediately at page 328 of the Reports of Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 that even if a non-registered dealer intervened, 'it is clear that under Section 15(a) of the Central Act the tax cannot be levied at more than one stage'. Secondly, it was pointed out by a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Gopaldas v. Sales Tax Officer [1973] 31 S.T.C. 575 that an unregistered dealer would sell goods to a registered dealer usually at a loss. For, if he sells the goods to a registered dealer at a profit, such a registered dealer would be buying those goods at a higher price than he would have paid for purchase of those goods from a registered dealer. For, transactions between registered dealers are trading transactions, which are wholesale. The sale price is, thereforee, much lower than the sale price in a sale to a registered dealer by an unregistered dealer. For the same reason, the price when the goods are sold by one registered dealer to another registered dealer would be lower than the price which would be charged by an unregistered dealer when he sells to a registered dealer. For, an unregistered dealer under the Delhi Act is presumably not liable to pay any sales tax inasmuch as the taxable turnover is presumed to be below the taxable quantum. He is thus presumed to be a petty dealer doing retail sales. Retail prices are higher than the wholesale prices. We are, thereforee, in respectful agreement with the Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that the possibility of such a sale by an unregistered dealer to a registered dealer is a remote one. We cannot construe a taxing enactment in such a fanciful manner. Thirdly, such an argument was also rejected by the Supreme Court in Rattan Lal v. Assessing Authority [1970] 25 S.T.C. 136, to which reference will be made while dealing with the next contention of the assessed.

2. Knowledge of the taxation.--The decision of the Supreme Court in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 seems to have been based on the fact that under the provisions of the Punjab Act, it was not possible for the dealer to know if the declared goods had already been subjected to tax beforehand. This is clear from the following observations at pages 328-329 of the Reports:At that stage, the question naturally arises, as to whether there is anywhere in the Act or the Rules any provision, by which the person, sending the return, will be able to know that the tax, in respect of the declared goods purchased by him, have already been paid by another dealer and that the value of the purchases, effected by him, need not be shown in his return.... There is no machinery by which a dealer can ascertain whether his vendor of the declared goods has paid the tax already. Even otherwise, it will be seen that if a dealer, A, sells the declared goods to B, six months after the close of the year (B being a registered dealer), A becomes liable to purchase tax. But, if B sells the identical declared goods, again, after the period mentioned in Sub-clause (vi), he will also be liable to pay purchase tax. That means, in respect of the same item of declared goods, more than one person is made liable to pay tax and the tax is also levied at more than one stage.

25. The lack of knowledge on the part of the dealer was thus the result of the peculiar provision of the Punjab Act in Section 5(2)(a)(vi) which is completely different from the provisions of the Delhi Act which does not contain any provision which corresponds to Section 5(2)(a)(vi) of the Punjab Act. The uncertainty created by Section 5(2)(a)(vi) was removed by the subsequent amendment of the Punjab Act which was a result of the decision of the Supreme Court in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290. After this amendment, the Supreme Court held in Rattan Lal v. Assessing Authority [1970] 25 S.T.C. 136, that no uncertainty was left in the mind of the dealer. At pages 144-145 of the Reports, Hidayatullah, C.J., observed as follows:

It will be seen that the matter is now in the hands of the dealer. He has to find out for himself whether he is liable to pay the tax or not. A dealer knows what he has done with his goods or is going to do with them. If he knows that he is not the last dealer having parted with the goods to another dealer or he knows that he is going to use the goods or sell them to consumers, he knows when he is not liable to tax and when he is.... This information is always possessed by a dealer and by providing that he need not include in his turnover any transaction except when he is the last dealer.... The law does not take into account the actions of persons who are negligent or mistaken but only of persons who act correctly, according to law.

26. These observations apply with full force to the Delhi Act. there under the sale does not become taxable unless it is a sale by a registered dealer to an unregistered dealer or a consumer in view of the scheme of Section 5(2)(a)(ii). It was again argued by the assesseds that a sale by a registered dealer to another registered dealer who is not registered in respect of the particular declared goods or who does not use his right to claim exemption by using his registration certificate in purchasing such declared goods would be liable to tax. This argument is negatived by the fact that such a sale is not a sale to a registered dealer at all. In respect of the goods which are not mentioned in his registration certificate, the purchasing dealer is acting as an unregistered dealer and not as a registered dealer at all. Similarly, a registered dealer who does not claim the advantage of a tax-free purchase by using his registration certificate is also acting as an unregistered dealer. The sale is taxable, thereforee, as a sale to an unregistered dealer and not as a sale to a registered dealer. This is not an exception to the rule embodied in Section 5(2)(a)(ii) that it is only the last sale which is taxable because it is a sale by a registered dealer to an unregistered dealer or to a consumer. In the Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66, the Division Bench has cited the Supreme Court decisions to show that such a sale is a sale to an unregistered dealer inasmuch as qua such a sale the registered dealer is not a registered dealer at all but is an unregistered dealer.

27. Reference was also made on behalf of the assesseds to form 22A framed under the Punjab General Sales Tax Rules, 1949, whereby the selling dealer certifies that the goods being sold have already suffered tax. It was argued that no such certificate is given by the selling dealer under the Delhi Act.

28. The answer to this contention is simple. The taxation under the Punjab Act is on the first purchase. The declared goods have to be sold again thereafter. It is important, thereforee, that the certificate must be given by the first purchaser that he has already paid the tax on these goods when such first purchaser sells these goods to another purchaser. Under the Delhi Act, however, the tax is levied on the last sale. In the nature of things, it is known that the unregistered dealer or the consumer must have paid the tax when he purchased them from a registered dealer. Since it is not expected that a sale by such a registered dealer or a consumer to another unregistered dealer or consumer would be taxable, there is no need why the certificate similar to the one in form 22A of the Punjab Rules should have to be given in such a transaction governed by the Delhi Act.

3. Exclusion from the taxation.--Basing themselves on the amendment made in the Punjab Act after Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290, the learned Counsel for the assesseds argued that the amended Punjab Act provided that the declared goods which had been once subjected to taxation should be excluded from being shown in the turnover of a dealer subsequently. It was pointed out that the Supreme Court took notice of this amendment in their decision in Rattan Lal's case [1970] 25 S.T.C. 136 and held that after the amendment, the Punjab Act could not be said to conflict with Section 15(a) of the Central Act. It was argued that there was no such provision in the Delhi Act for the exclusion of the declared goods from being shown in the gross turnover of a dealer under the Delhi Act. It was also argued that under Section 4 of the Delhi Act every dealer whose 'gross turnover...exceeded the taxable quantum' was liable to pay sales tax. The implication of the argument was that in the absence of a provision in the Delhi Act for the exclusion of the sale price of the declared goods from being included in the gross turnover on the ground that such goods have already suffered tax, the Delhi Act would be liable to the same objection to which the Punjab Act was liable, as held in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290. This contention is also not tenable. It is to be noted that the Supreme Court in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 did not hold that the Punjab Act was bad because it did not provide for the exclusion of sale price of the declared goods from the gross turnover of a dealer on the ground that such goods had already been subjected to tax. The amendment in the Punjab Act made after the decision in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case [1967] 20 S.T.C. 290 making provision for such exclusion was by way of abundant caution. It was not necessitated by the decision of the Supreme Court in Bhawani Cotton Mills' case[1967] 20 S.T.C. 290. A.V. Fernandez v. State of Kerala [1957] 8 S.T.C. 561 is an authority for the proposition that even though a State Sales Tax Act did not provide for the exclusion of the sale price of certain goods, such sale price had to be excluded from the turnover by reading Article 286 or a provision corresponding to it in the State Sales Tax Act. The same reasoning would apply if Section 15(a) of the Central Act is read with the Delhi Act. The reading of the two together bring about the result that the sale prices of the declared goods which have been already subjected to tax do not have to be included in the gross turnover of a dealer. The reason is the distinction between the liability to pay sales tax and the assessment of such liability by a sales tax authority. When the liability itself does not arise, the sale price does not have to be shown in the gross turnover even though there is no specific provision for its exclusion from the gross turnover under a State Sales Tax Act. On the other hand, if an exemption has to be claimed during the assessment to sales tax, then such exemption or deduction from the gross turnover can be claimed only when there is a specific provision for such deduction in the State Act. The present case falls under the first category, namely, of the non-existence of the liability. It is not necessary, thereforee, that the Delhi Act should provide for the exclusion of the sale price of the declared goods which are already taxed from the gross turnover of a dealer. The same view was expressed by the Supreme Court in State of Assam v. Ramesh Chandra Dey : [1962]1SCR986 , and was relied upon by this Court in Fitwell Engineers' case [1975] 35 S.T.C. 66. In their decision in Devi Dass Gopal Krishnan [1967] 20 S.T.C. 430, referred to above, also the Supreme Court expressed the same view following their decision in Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills' case : [1965]1SCR592 .

29. A passing reference was made to Section 15(b) of the Central Act by Mr. R.C. Chawla for the assesseds. We are unable to deal with Section 15(b) of the Central Act inasmuch as it has no relevance to the cases before us. None of the assesseds has paid Central sales tax and none of them is claiming a refund of the State sales tax paid by him. In fact, no reference can be made to the machinery of refund under the Delhi Act inasmuch as none of the assesseds before us claims to be entitled to refund tax or the Central sales tax. They have, thereforee, no locus standi to raise any question regarding any provision for refund either in the Central Act or in the State Act.

30. No other contention was raised by the assesseds. All their contentions having fallen through and the contentions of the Government having succeeded, the writ petitions filed by the assesseds, namely, Civil Writs Nos. 1247 of 1972 and 350 of 1973 are dismissed and the writ petitions filed by the Commissioner of Sales Tax, namely, Civil Writs Nos. 460 and 553 of 1973 are allowed. The impugned orders passed by the Financial Commissioner are quashed. The Financial Commissioner will now act in the light of the observation made in this judgment.

31. In the circumstances of the case, the parties are ordered to bear their own costs.


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