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The State of Gujarat Vs. Mahavir Oil Mills - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSales Tax Reference No. 2 of 1971
Judge
Reported in[1973]32STC385(Guj)
ActsCentral Sales Tax Act, 1956 - Sections 14
AppellantThe State of Gujarat
RespondentMahavir Oil Mills
Appellant Advocate G.N. Desai, Government Pleader, i/b.,; H.V. Chhatrapati, Adv. of Bhaishanker Kanga and Girdharlal, Go
Respondent Advocate S.L. Mody, Adv.
Cases ReferredMegh Raj and Another v. Allah Rakhia and Others
Excerpt:
.....council were concerned with the interpretation of an entry in the legislative lists under the government of india act, 1935, which would on ordinary principles of interpretation of constitutional provisions, receive the widest construction unless it is cut down by the terms of the entry itself or other parts of the constitution. in our opinion, however, the expression 'that is to say' as used by the legislature in the present case limits the general term 'oil-seeds' and that legislative intent has been brought out clearly by exclusion of cotton seeds, groundnut and coconut in shell and kernel from the different types or varieties of oil-seeds as specified in entry 6. we are dealing with an entry in a fiscal statute, which in the absence of a technical meaning should be strictly..........in our opinion, therefore, the tribunal was perfectly justified in applying the common parlance test, as entry no. 6 cannot be said to be an entry where the oil-seeds are clearly defined and, therefore, the defined meaning should be preferred to the common parlance meaning. a number of decisions have been cited before us, some of which have been also referred to in the order of the tribunal to show what test should be applied. the line of decisions of those high courts which have preferred the common parlance test to be applied are : andhra pradesh in berar oil industries, akola at adoni v. the state of andhra (now a.p.) ([1961] 12 s.t.c. 797); allahabad in avadh sugar mills ltd. v. sales tax officer and another ([1968] 21 s.t.c. 295) and commissioner of sales tax v. ram kumar nand.....
Judgment:

Mehta, J.

1. The question which has been referred to us for our opinion is as under :

'Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the bhinda (lady's finger) seeds purchased by the opponent-mill are oil-seeds covered by entry 6, Part II, of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959, or are covered by the residuary entry 22 of Schedule A to the said Act ?'

2. The question has been referred to us in the following circumstances :

The opponent herein is an oil mill manufacturing edible and non-edible oils and is registered under the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959. It was assessed for S.Y. 2020 corresponding to 18th October, 1963, to 4th November, 1964. During the said period it purchased bhinda seeds for Rs. 23,741 for purposes of manufacturing oil out of seeds. The Sales Tax Officer concerned held that the seeds purchased by the opponent-mill were oil-seeds and should be subjected to tax accordingly under entry 6, Part II, of Schedule B to the aforesaid Act. The opponent-mill, therefore, took the matter in appeal before the Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax. The contention before the Commissioner was that the bhinda seeds purchased by the opponent-mill were vegetable seeds covered by entry 22 of Schedule A to the aforesaid Act and as such not liable to tax. This contention did not find favour with the Assistant Commissioner, who confirmed the order of the Sales Tax Officer and held that bhinda seeds were liable to tax under entry 6, Part II, of Schedule B to the Act. The opponent-mill, therefore, went in second appeal before the Tribunal. Both the contentions, namely, that the bhinda seeds were vegetable seeds within entry 22 of Schedule A and, secondly, they could not be considered to be oil-seeds liable to tax under entry 6, Part II, of Schedule B were raised. The Tribunal after referring to the scheme of Schedule A and the relevant entries thereto, namely, entries 22, 23, 25 and 26, held that the expression 'vegetable seeds' in entry 22 of Schedule A meant such vegetable seeds which are capable of being sown and actually required for use for such purposes. The Tribunal then proceeded to consider the facts relating to the purchase of seeds by the opponent-mill and came to the conclusion that bhinda seeds purchased by the opponent-mill were not vegetable seeds as covered under entry 22. On the second contention, whether the seeds were oil-seeds or not, the Tribunal, after referring to the decisions of various High Courts, was of opinion that the meaning which should be attributed to the term 'oil-seeds' should be the meaning as attributed under the common parlance. In the opinion of the Tribunal, applying that test, bhinda seeds should not be understood as 'oil-seeds'. In that view of the matter, therefore, the Tribunal allowed the appeal of the opponent-mill. At the instance of the State, the aforesaid question has been referred to us.

3. The relevant entry No. 6 of Part II of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959, as stood at the relevant time, read as under :

------------------------------------------------------------------------ PART - II ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Sl. Rate of Rate of No. Description of goods. general purchase sales tax. tax. 1 2 3 4 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 6. Oil-seeds, that is to say, Two naye Two naye seeds yielding non-volatile paise in paise in oils used for human the rupee. the rupee. consumption, or in industry, or in the manufacture of varnishes, soaps and the like, or in lubrication, and volatile oils used chiefly in medicines, perfumes, cosmetics and the like, but not cotton seeds and groundnut and also coconut in shell and kernel which are declared tax-free under entry 13A in Schedule A. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. On behalf of the revenue, it was urged that the Tribunal was clearly in error in applying the common parlance test, and on a plain reading of the entry, it should have been construed by the Tribunal that the legislative intent in specifying the different types of oil was to define the oil-seeds and, therefore, the defined meaning should have been preferred. On behalf of the assessee, it was urged that on a true construction and effect of entry No. 6, the Legislature has by using the words 'that is to say' in entry No. 6, intended to limit the liability of tax to the specified counts of oil-seeds and, therefore, the Tribunal was correct when it applied the common parlance test.

5. In Commissioner of Sales Tax, Madhya Pradesh, Indore v. M/s. Jaswant Singh Charan Singh : [1967]2SCR720 , the Supreme Court was concerned with the question whether on the interpretation of entry 1 of Part III of Schedule II to the Madhya Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1958, that entry would cover within the term 'coal' the commodity of charcoal. The court, after referring to the different decisions as to how the entry in the fiscal statute be interpreted, laid down as under :

'The result emerging from these decisions is that while construing the word 'coal' in entry 1 of Part III of Schedule II, the test that would be applied is what would be the meaning which persons dealing with coal and consumers purchasing it as fuel would give to that word. A sales tax statute, being one levying a tax on goods, must, in the absence of a technical term or a term of science or art, be presumed to have used an ordinary term as coal according to the meaning ascribed to it in common parlance. Viewed from that angle both a merchant dealing in coal and a consumer wanting to purchase it would regard coal not in its geological sense but in the sense as ordinarily understood and would include 'charcoal' in the term 'coal'. It is only when the question of the kind or variety of coal would arise that a distinction would be made between coal and charcoal; otherwise, both of them would in ordinary parlance as also in their commercial sense be spoken as coal.'

6. In Commissioner of Income-tax, Andhra Pradesh v. M/s. Taj Mahal Hotel, Secunderabad : [1971]82ITR44(SC) , a question arose before the Supreme Court, whether sanitary fittings in a bath room are essential amenities or conveniences which are normally provided in any good hotel in the modern days and would be included in the term 'plant' in section 10(5) of the Income-tax Act, 1922. The court held that sanitary fittings are included in the word 'plant' as the definition thereof clearly indicated that wides possible meaning should be given to the same. In that context it has been held that where a statute gives a definition of the word, it must not be construed in its popular sense. Mr. Justice Grover (as he then was) speaking for the court observed in paragraph 6 of the judgment as under :

'Now it is well-settled that where the definition of a word has not been given, it must be construed in its popular sense, if it is a word of every day use. Popular sense means 'that sense which people coversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing would attribute to it' .....'

7. In our opinion, we have to interpret the entry as it appears at item No. 6 of Part II of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959. The entry opens with the words 'oil-seeds'. There is no doubt that these are words of very wide import. The Legislature has not rest satisfied with the use of the words of such a general and wide import, but has suffixed them with the words 'that is to say' and thereafter specified firstly those seeds' yielding non-volatile oils' used for certain purposes such as human consumption, industrial use, or in the manufacture of varnishes, soaps and the like; and, secondly, such seeds 'yielding volatile oils' used chiefly in medicines, perfumes and cosmetics. It has, however, excluded 'cotton seeds and groundnut and also coconut in shell and kernel' which are prescribed under entry 13A in Schedule A as tax-free. In our opinion, the question is, then, what is the meaning to be ascribed to the words 'that is to say'. Are these words merely illustrating the different types of oil-seeds as generally described in the opening part of the entry, or are they words restricting the general nature of goods, namely, oil-seeds The expression 'that is to say' has been the subject-matter of judicial interpretation. In Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, 3rd Edition, at page 3007, under the caption 'that is to say', it is observed as under :

'THAT IS TO SAY : (1) 'That is to say' is the commencement of an ancillary clause which explains the meaning of the principal clause. It has the following properties : (i) it must not be contrary to the principal clause; (ii) it must neither increase nor diminish it; (iii) but where the principal clause is general in terms it may restrict it.'

8. The contention on behalf of the revenue that entry No. 6 should be construed as defining the oil-seeds is, in our opinion, too tall a submission, which cannot be sustained. There are good reasons for it, apart from the meaning to be ascribed to the expression 'that is to say'. In our opinion, the legislative intent is clear that it did not want to levy tax on all kinds of oil-seeds. That intention is clear from the latter portion of the entry, where the Legislature has excluded cotton seed, groundnut and also coconut in shell and kernel. What are sought to be taxed are oil-seeds yielding non-volatile oils used for human consumption or industry or in the manufacture of varnishes, soaps and the like or volatile oils used chiefly in medicines, perfumes and cosmetics. On a plain reading of the entry, we are of the opinion that the expression 'that is to say' cannot be construed as illustrative of different varieties of oil-seeds, having regard more particularly to the exclusion of cotton seeds, groundnut and coconut in shell and kernel. Even on the principle of interpretation, as observed in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, the expression 'that is to say' follows the general term, the characteristic of which to be inferred from the juxtaposition of the words, is to read the legislative intent, as restricting the nature of the commodities sought to be taxed. In our opinion, therefore, the Tribunal was perfectly justified in applying the common parlance test, as entry No. 6 cannot be said to be an entry where the oil-seeds are clearly defined and, therefore, the defined meaning should be preferred to the common parlance meaning. A number of decisions have been cited before us, some of which have been also referred to in the order of the Tribunal to show what test should be applied. The line of decisions of those High Courts which have preferred the common parlance test to be applied are : Andhra Pradesh in Berar Oil Industries, Akola at Adoni v. The State of Andhra (Now A.P.) ([1961] 12 S.T.C. 797); Allahabad in Avadh Sugar Mills Ltd. v. Sales Tax Officer and Another ([1968] 21 S.T.C. 295) and Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Ram Kumar Nand Kumar ([1973] 31 S.T.C. 321); Kerala in State of Kerala v. C. Moidoo ([1972] 29 S.T.C. 373); Madhya Pradesh in Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Bakhat Rai & Co. ([1966] 18 S.T.C. 285); Madras in Government of Madras v. Simpson & Co. Ltd. ([1968] 21 S.T.C. 21 (S.C.)) and Punjab in Hans Raj Choudhri v. J. S. Rajyana, Excise and Taxation Officer ([1967] 19 S.T.C. 489). The line of decisions of those High Courts which have construed this entry as defining the goods specifically are Orissa in State of Orissa v. Dinabandhu Sahu and Sons ([1969] 24 S.T.C. 233), Andhra Pradesh in its later ruling in Shantilal & Co. and Another v. The State of Andhra Pradesh ([1972] 30 S.T.C. 382) and Madhya Pradesh in Commissioner of Sales Tax, Madhya Pradesh v. Hirji Nainsee and Co. ([1972] 29 S.T.C. 365). It is not necessary for our purpose to refer to these different decisions in detail. However, we refer to the two decisions, from amongst those decisions, which have been pressed into service by the learned Government Pleader on behalf of the revenue. In State of Orissa v. Dinabandhu Sahu and Sons ([1969] 24 S.T.C. 233), the Orissa High Court has construed this entry as defining the goods and, therefore, thought it fit to prefer the defined meaning to the common parlance test. As stated by us above, we are not inclined to construe this entry as defining the term 'oil-seeds'. It should be noted that the entry with which the Orissa High Court was concerned was the entry under section 14 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, where the entry is not in the same terms as we have got in entry 6 of Part II of Schedule B to the Act. The entry under section 14 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, does not exclude, as has been done in entry 6 of Part II of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959, in the present case, cotton seeds, groundnut and coconut in shell and kernel. In our opinion, this exclusion has a bearing for the purpose of interpretation of the particular entry before us. The Kerala High Court in State of Kerala v. C. Moidoo ([1972] 29 S.T.C. 373) has construed the expression 'that is to say', after following the two decisions, one of the Federal Court of India in Bhola Prasad v. Emperor (A.I.R. 1942 F.C. 17), and another of the Privy Council in Megh Raj and Another v. Allah Rakhia and Others (A.I.R. 1947 P.C. 72), as merely illustrative and neither as words of limitation, nor as explanatory nor as defining the general term. The Federal Court as well as the Privy Council were concerned with the interpretation of an entry in the Legislative Lists under the Government of India Act, 1935, which would on ordinary principles of interpretation of constitutional provisions, receive the widest construction unless it is cut down by the terms of the entry itself or other parts of the Constitution. On a plain reading of the relevant entries, the courts ruled there that they were of widest import and having regard to the ancillary clause, the expression 'that is to say' did not restrict the import of the principal clause. However, it should again be noted that the entry with which the Kerala High Court was concerned was also an entry similar to that with which the Orissa High Court was concerned in section 14 of the Central Sales Tax Act. It should also be noted that the Kerala High Court after considering the expression 'that is to say' as illustrating the general term, directed in the operative part of its order in the reference that, even after taking the entry as illustrative entry, the common parlance test should be applied and the Tribunal should try to find out, whether the particular commodity in that case by common parlance is understood to be included in the entry of oil-seeds or not. In our opinion, however, the expression 'that is to say' as used by the Legislature in the present case limits the general term 'oil-seeds' and that legislative intent has been brought out clearly by exclusion of cotton seeds, groundnut and coconut in shell and kernel from the different types or varieties of oil-seeds as specified in entry 6. We are dealing with an entry in a fiscal statute, which in the absence of a technical meaning should be strictly construed and we are, therefore, of the opinion that the Tribunal was right when it applied the common parlance test in order to find out, whether bhinda seeds are in the first instance oil-seeds under entry 6 and, if so, whether they are liable to be taxed as such in the said entry. In our opinion, the determination of the question, whether bhinda seeds are oil-seeds or not, cannot be arrived at by reference to their use or by the mere fact that the seeds in question would yield oil. The term 'oil-seeds' is a term of every day use and it should be construed in its popular sense. In other words, it should be construed in that sense which people conversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing would attribute to it. It should be construed as understood in the common language. The test cannot be, whether oil is extracted from the seeds in question but whether it is, in common parlance, an article known as oil-seeds for extraction of oil. Judging by this test, the Tribunal was right in holding that it was difficult for the Tribunal to uphold the contention of the revenue that bhinda seeds could be said to be known as oil-seeds used principally for extraction of oil. Even applying the test laid down by the decision of the Kerala High Court construing the expression 'that is to say' as illustrating the general term, we do not find any evidence on the record or any material placed from which the further question, whether bhinda seeds are yielding volatile or non-volatile oil which can be used for purposes of human consumption or industrial use or for medicines, perfumes or cosmetics, can be satisfactorily determined. In that state of affairs, therefore, we answer the question as under :

'On the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the bhinda seeds purchased by the opponent-mill are not oil-seeds covered by entry 6, Part II, of Schedule B, to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959.'

9. There should be no order as to costs in this reference.

10. Reference answered accordingly.


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