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Raman Nambudiri Vs. Deputy Commercial Tax Officer - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revision Case No. 896 of 1956 (M)
Judge
Reported in[1958]9STC261(Ker)
AppellantRaman Nambudiri
RespondentDeputy Commercial Tax Officer
Appellant Advocate V.P. Gopalan Nambiar and; V.M. Karunakaran Nair, Advs.
Respondent AdvocatePublic Prosecutor
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
- - and (2) that the facts proved at best merely showed that accounts were not made available to p. all that is necessary is that entry or inspection should have been effectively prevented or obstructed. the question is whether the act complained of against the accused in this case amounted to such a prevention or obstruction of the inspection which p. 1 has clearly stated that the pocket note book found on the table in the shop was snatched away all on a sudden by the accused and hidden in his pocket as soon as p. this position is untenable on the face of it, because section 14 of the general sales tax act expressly authorises officers like p......april, 1956, p. w. 1 who was at that time deputy commercial tax officer at manjeri, entered this shop for inspection of the accounts to find out whether there has been any suppression of sales and purchases in that shop with a view to evade payment of sales tax. the accused was then sitting at the counter and was looking after the business of the shop. on seeing p. w. 1 entering the shop, the accused suddenly removed a pocket notebook that was kept on the table in the shop and placed it in his own pocket. p. w. 1 made repeated demands for surrender of that book for his inspection on the basis that it was one of the books kept in the shop in the ordinary course of the business transacted therein.the accused stoutly refused to surrender the book on the pretext that it contained his.....
Judgment:

K. Sankaran, J.

1. This criminal revision case has been filed on behalf of the accused in C. C. No. 193/1956 on the file of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate's Court at Malappuram. One Devaky Amma was the owner of a provision shop at Manjeri. The accused was in charge of the affairs of this shop as the agent of the owner of the shop. At 4 P. M. on 16th April, 1956, P. W. 1 who was at that time Deputy Commercial Tax Officer at Manjeri, entered this shop for inspection of the accounts to find out whether there has been any suppression of sales and purchases in that shop with a view to evade payment of sales tax. The accused was then sitting at the counter and was looking after the business of the shop. On seeing P. W. 1 entering the shop, the accused suddenly removed a pocket notebook that was kept on the table in the shop and placed it in his own pocket. P. W. 1 made repeated demands for surrender of that book for his inspection on the basis that it was one of the books kept in the shop in the ordinary course of the business transacted therein.

The accused stoutly refused to surrender the book on the pretext that it contained his private accounts. The notice issued by P. W. I in his official capacity as Deputy Commercial Tax Officer, calling upon the accused to produce the book in question was also disobeyed by the accused. On these allegations, P. W. 1 prosecuted the accused for the offence under Section 15(c) read with Section 14(2) of the Madras General Sales Tax Act (Act IX of 1939, Madras) and also under Section 186 of the Indian Penal Code. The accused pleaded not guilty to the charge against him and maintained that his conduct in refusing to surrender the book in question for the inspection of P. W. 1 did not amount to the offence punishable under law. The learned Magistrate repelled this plea and found that the prosecution evidence has made out the offence charged against the accused. Accordingly, the accused was convicted of the offences under the above sections and was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 50 and, in default, to undergo simple imprisonment, for 15 days. The revision case is directed against this conviction and sentence.

2. The points raised on behalf of the accused are : (1) that P. W. 1 had no right to demand or insist upon the production of any account book or document even if it related to the business conducted by the accused ; much less if it related to his private business; and (2) that the facts proved at best merely showed that accounts were not made available to P. W. 1, but that it will not amount to obstruction as contemplated by Section 186 of the Indian Penal Code. I do not see any force or substance in these contentions.

3. The essence of the charge against the accused is that he prevented or obstructed P. W. 1 from exercising his official duties as enjoined by Section 14 of the Madras General Sales Tax Act. Section 14 of the Act runs as follows :--

(1) Any officer empowered by the State Government in this behalf may, for the purposes of this Act, require any dealer carrying on business in any kind of goods to produce before him the accounts and other documents, and to furnish any other information relating to such business.

(2) All accounts and registers maintained by dealers in the ordinary course of their business, the goods in their possession and their offices, shops, godowns, vessels or vehicles shall be open to inspection at all reasonable times by such officers as may be authorised in this behalf.

(3) Any such officer shall have power to enter, for the purpose referred to in Sub-section (2), any office, shop, godown, vessel, vehicle or any other place in which business is done.

In the present case the accused was the person in charge of the business in the provision shop visited by P. W. I. The accused was thus 'dealer' within the meaning of the General Sales Tax Act which . defines 'dealer' as any person who carries on the business of buying or selling goods. A co-operative society, a club, a firm or any association which sells goods to its members is also deemed to be a dealer as per the Explanation added to the definition, P. W. I in his official capacity as the Deputy Commercial Tax Officer was an officer empowered to conduct the inspection contemplated by Section 14. There is no dispute about this fact. It is not also disputed that be had entered the shop in question at a time when business was being carried on in the shop. It was therefore an appropriate time when P. W. 1 was entitled to conduct his inspection. P. W. 1 wanted to inspect all accounts and registers maintained in the shop in the ordinary course of business transacted therein. Preventing or obstructing him from carrying on the inspection of such records will be an offence punishable under Clause (c) read with Clause (h) of Section 15 of the Act. The combined effect of these two clauses is that any person who prevents or obstructs inspection or entry by any officer authorised under Section 14, in contravention of the terms thereof, shall, on conviction, by a Presidency Magistrate or a Magistrate of the First Class be liable to a fine which may extend to Rs. 1,000. It is significant to note that the wording of Clause (c) of Section 15 is different from the wording of Section 186 of the Penal Code. To constitute an offence punishable under Section 186 of the Penal Code, the prosecution has to make out that the accused voluntarily obstructed a public servant in the discharge of his public functions. But the rigour of this section has been considerably diluted and even taken away by the corresponding provision in Clause (c) of Section 15 of the Sales Tax Act. To attract this clause it is sufficient that an officer authorised under Section 14 has been prevented or obstructed from entering the shop and conducting the inspection contemplated by Section 14. It is not necessary that force or violence should have been used in preventing or obstructing such entry or inspection. All that is necessary is that entry or inspection should have been effectively prevented or obstructed. The question is whether the act complained of against the accused in this case amounted to such a prevention or obstruction of the inspection which P. W. 1 wanted to carry out. I have no doubt that the answer should be in the affirmative. P. W. 1 has clearly stated that the pocket note book found on the table in the shop was snatched away all on a sudden by the accused and hidden in his pocket as soon as P. W. 1 entered the shop. He has further stated that in spite of his repeated demands for surrender of the book for inspection, the accused stoutly refused to hand over the book. The accused in his statement has also admitted that he had refused to hand over the book to P. W. 1 for inspection. All that P. W. 1 could do was to insist on the surrender of the book for inspection. He was not expected to use physical force against the accused for getting possession of the book. P. W. 1 made all lawful attempts to get at the book for inspection and he was thwarted in that attempt by the obstruction caused by the accused. Thus it is clear that the accused prevented and obstructed P. W. 1 from inspecting the book in question.

4. The next, aspect to be considered is whether P. W. 1 had no right to insist on or demand the production of the book even if the book related to the business carried on in the shop. This is the extreme position taken up on behalf of the accused. This position is untenable on the face of it, because Section 14 of the General Sales Tax Act expressly authorises officers like P. W. 1 to require any dealer carrying on business in any kind of goods, to produce before them the accounts and other documents relating to such business. It is next urged on behalf of the accused that this authority will not enable the officer to demand the production for his examination of the accounts relating to the private business of the dealer. The decision in Venkateswara Rao, In re, (1952) 1 M.L.J. 14 is also cited as authority in support of the position. The view taken in that case appears to be that an officer as contemplated in Section 14 is entitled to insist on having the facility to examine only such of the records and documents as are either admitted or proved to be accounts and records relating to the business of the dealer. With great respect I must say I cannot accept this view as correct. The very object of enacting Section 14 is to enable the inspecting officers to go through all the relevant records which may have a bearing on the business in question and to find out whether the accounts are truly and properly maintained and whether the dealer is indulging in the manipulation or suppression of accounts to enable him to evade payment of tax. This object cannot be achieved merely by examining the accounts put forward by the dealer as the true and correct accounts in the business. The normal presumption to be drawn in respect of the other accounts and records that may be found at the place of business is that they also relate to the same business. To say that the inspecting officer can insist on their examination only after proving that they also relate to the business is to expect the officer to perform an impossible task because before the examination of those records the officer will not be in a position to say whether they relate to the business in question or whether they relate to the private affairs of the dealer. It is for the dealer to rebut the presumption arising out of the presence of these records at the business place that they also relate to the business by showing their contents to the inspecting officer and satisfying him that those records are unconnected with the business and that they relate only to his private affairs. To recognise a right in him to withhold all such records from the inspecting officer on the strength of his mere assertion that they relate to his private affairs and are in no way connected with the business in question, would be to defeat the purpose of section 14 and thus enable the dealer to withhold from the inspecting officer very valuable items of evidence useful in the detection of the tax evasive methods that may be adopted by the dealer. I do not see any justification to construe Section 14 in such a manner. In the present case it has been admitted by the accused that the accounts relating to the business in his charge were written by himself and the pocket book in question was on his table in the shop when P.W. 1 visited the place. Naturally therefore P.W. 1 was entitled to proceed on the basis that this book also related to the business in question. It is conceded by the accused that the book contained accounts. His only plea is that they are his private accounts. In such circumstances he was bound to surrender the book to P.W. 1 for his examination to satisfy himself whether the entries in the book related to the business transacted in the shop or whether they related exclusively to the private affairs of the accused. The conduct of the accused in withholding the book from P.W. 1 and thus preventing and obstructing him from the exercise of his right as the Deputy Commercial Tax Officer to inspect the book, leads to the irresistible inference that the book in question really contained entries relating to the business in the shop. Such prevention and obstruction amount to an offence punishable under Section 15, clauses (c) and (h) of the Act. .Since the punishment is also provided for by Section 15 itself, there is no necessity to invoke the aid of Section 186 of the Penal Code. The conviction recorded under Section 15(0) and (h) read along with Section 14(2) of the Sales Tax Act is proper and it calls for no interference. The sentence has only been lenient and it also does not merit any interference.

5. In the result this revision case is dismissed.


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