1. The question for decision in this appeal, originally filed as Revision Application to the Government of India, is whether the Steam Press with 'portable boiler alongwith steam ironing and cleaning tables' imported by the appellants vide Bill of Entry No. 43/77, dated 25-7-1978 should be classified under sub-heading (1) of heading 84.40 of C.T.A., 1975, as claimed by the appellants or under sub-heading (2) of the same heading, as done by the lower authorities.
2. At the hearing of the appeal, Shri J. Banerjee, learned Advocate for the appellants argued that the appellants had imported Industrial Laundry and Dry-cleaning machinery. He submitted that sub-heading (2) of Heading 84.40 covers Domestic Washing machines, laundry and dry-cleaning machinery and not Industrial laundry and dry-cleaning machinery. The goods imported were therefore appropriately classifiable under Heading 84.40(1)'Not elsewhere specified'. Sh. Banerjee's argument, further, was that the word 'Domestic' used in sub-heading (2) of the Heading 84.40 qualifies not only the words washing machines but also the words laundry and dry-cleaning machinery. In particular, he invited our attention to the fact that only "comma" had been used between the words "Domestic Washing machine" and the words "laundry and dry-cleaning machinery". As against this he invited our attention to heading 84.37(2), wherein, after the words "Domestic Knitting machine" "semi-colon" has been used. Shri Banerjee, learned counsel further argued that in the tariff the punctuations have been used with definite sense and purpose and therefore definite meaning should be given to them. He contended that in the sub-heading (2) of heading 84.40 only "comma" has been used and so it must be held that the word "Domestic" qualifies also the term "laundry and dry-cleaning machinery".
3. As against this Shri V.M.K. Nair, learned Sr. Departmental Representative invited our attention to the words used in the main part of the heading 84.40 and to the words inside the brackets namely ; "(including laundry and dry-cleaning machinery)" and submitted that the heading includes all machinery and dry-cleaning machinery whether domestic or not. He further argued that the word "domestic" would not qualify the term laundry and dry-cleaning machinery. He also submitted that had the intention of the Government of India been to qualify these words the same would have been spelled out. He also argued that Domestic laundry aud dry-cleaning machinery, as such are not known to exist.
4. In reply, Shri Banerjee, learned Counsel reiterated that the plain meaning should be given to the sub-heading and Bench should not be concerned whether such 'domestic laundry and dry-cleaning machinery' exist or not.
To a query by the Bench whether domestic laundry and dry-cleaning machinery were known to exist or not. Shri Banerjee did not reply and only submitted that in interpreting the terms of the Tariff, the Tribunal was not concerned whether in fact such machinery existed or not. It should interpret the words of the tariff only on legal consideration.
5. We have carefully considered the arguments advanced by the parties.
As to Shri Banerjee's argument about punctuation and 'semi-colon' having been used in heading 84.37(2) and only 'comma' in heading 84.40(2), it is sufficient to say that punctuation is a minor element for interpretation of statute and is of importance only when statute is found to be punctuated. Accepting Shri Banerjee's argument that the word "domestic" used in subheading (2) of heading 84.40 qualifies also the words "laundry and dry-cleariing machinery" would mean bringing into existence such domestic appliances and machinery which in fact do not exist. Such construction would lead to absurdity which has to be avoided. We do not think that the word 'Domestic' used in the sub-heading (2) of heading 84.40 qualifies the words laundry and dry-cleaning machinery.
Admittedly, the appellants imported 'Industrial laundry and dry-cleaning machinery". In our view, the lower authorities were justified in classifying the goods imported under sub-heading (2) of heading 84.40 and not under sub-heading (I) as claimed by the appellants.