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inder Singh Vs. Sales Tax Officer - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Subject Sales Tax
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case Number D.B. Civil Reference No. 28 of 1958
Judge
Reported in[1961]12STC557(Raj)
Appellantinder Singh
RespondentSales Tax Officer
Appellant Advocate Hastimal Parekh, Adv.
Respondent Advocate Kan Singh, Government Adv.
Cases ReferredDilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps
Excerpt:
- - under section 4(1) no tax shall be payable under the act on the sale of any of the exempted goods if the conditions specified in column 3 of the schedule are satisfied. 636 (641), said lord coleridge :i am quite aware that dictionaries are not to be taken as authoritative exponents of the meanings of the words used in acts of parliament, but it is a well known rule of courts of law that words should be taken to be used in their ordinary sense, and we are therefore, sent for instruction to these books. these taxation laws are not in the nature of penal laws ;they are substantially remedial in their character and are intended to prevent fraud, suppress public wrong and promote the public good......exempted. the learned counsel urged that the commissioner adopted the dictionary meaning of the word 'cloth' but stopped short by not giving full effect to the word 'covering'. the learned counsel further argued that even assuming that the expression handloom cloth was capable of more than one meaning in a fiscal statute that interpretation should be given which is favourable to the subject. he relied on state of bombay v. r. s. phadtare a.i.r. 1956 bora. 496, wherein it was held that sugarcane is a fresh vegetable which is exempted from the provisions of the act. the learned judges applied the doctrine that if two constructions are possible on a taxing statute, the court must consider the one which gives relief to the subject. the learned counsel also cited empress mills v. municipal.....
Judgment:

B.P. Beri, J.

1. This is a reference under Section 15(1) of the Rajasthan Sales Tax Act, 1954 (Act No. XXIX of 1954 hereinafter called the Act) by the Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Rajasthan, Udaipur, made at the instance of the firm of Messrs Motilal & Co., Jodhpur, through its partner Inder Singh, the assessee.

2. For the assessment year 1957-58 the assessee, who carries on business in Jodhpur City, claimed exemption of sales tax on Durries. The Sales Tax Officer disallowed this claim holding that Durries were not included in handloom cloth. The assessee preferred a revision application before the Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Rajasthan. That officer also rejected the assessee's claim on the ground that the term 'cloth' is not a word of art and Durries are not included in the Notification No. F. 21(7)/SR/55 dated 14th April, 1955. On an application by the assessee that the Durries woven on handloom stood covered by the exemption certificate granted under the Notification relating to hand-loom cloth, the Commissioner has submitted the following question for answer:-

Whether under the facts and circumstances of the case the turnover of Durries has been rightly included in the taxable turnover?

3. We have heard Shri Hastimal, learned counsel for the assessee, and Shri Kan Singh, Government Advocate, for the State.

4. Before we proceed to examine the contention of the learned counsel for the parties we think it useful to refer to the relevant provisions of law around which the present controversy revolves. Under Section 3, subject to the provisions of the Act, every dealer whose turnover in the previous year in respect of sales or supplies of goods exceeds Rs. 12,000 shall be liable to pay tax. Under Section 4(1) no tax shall be payable under the Act on the sale of any of the exempted goods if the conditions specified in column 3 of the Schedule are satisfied. Under Section 4(2) where the State Govenment is of opinion that it is necessary or expedient in the public interest so to do, the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, exempt from tax the sale of any goods or class of goods on such conditions and on payment of such fee as may be specified in the notification.

5. Pursuant to the provisions of Section 4(2), the State Government issued a Notification No. F. 21(7)/SR/55 dated 14th April, 1955, the relevant entry whereof reads as under:-

Handloom cloth, including pagri made of handloom cloth (with or without challa) safa, woven on handloom and handloom cloth interwoven with gold thread, of whatever description.

6. The learned counsel for the assessee argued that it is not disputed that the Durries regarding which the assessee claims exemption are woven exactly in the same manner as any other handloom cloth. The technique employed in making Durry or other handloom cloth being identical, Durry is a handloom cloth intended for covering the floor, stairs etc., and, therefore, stands exempted. The learned counsel urged that the Commissioner adopted the dictionary meaning of the word 'cloth' but stopped short by not giving full effect to the word 'covering'. The learned counsel further argued that even assuming that the expression handloom cloth was capable of more than one meaning in a fiscal statute that interpretation should be given which is favourable to the subject. He relied on State of Bombay v. R. S. Phadtare A.I.R. 1956 Bora. 496, wherein it was held that sugarcane is a fresh vegetable which is exempted from the provisions of the Act. The learned Judges applied the doctrine that if two constructions are possible on a taxing statute, the Court must consider the one which gives relief to the subject. The learned counsel also cited Empress Mills v. Municipal Committee, Wardha A.I.R. 1958 S.C. 341, wherein it was held that if in construing a taxing statute, there are two interpretations possible, then effect is to be given to the one that favours the citizen and not the one that imposes a burden on him.

7. The learned Government Advocate, on the other hand, urged that it was not the construction of a taxing statute but of an exemption clause. While construing an exemption clause the case of the assessee must strictly fall within the compass of the exemption granted. The principle that a taxing statute should be construed in favour of the subject was inapplicable as such in the case of a claim relating to an exemption. He further submitted that the word 'cloth' is not a word of art. It has acquired a secondary meaning and it is that meaning which should be preferred. He relied on Kosuri Subba Raju v. State of Andhra [1956] 7 S.T.C. 479, wherein nawar tape although manufactured in the same manner as handloom cloth was not held to be exempted.

8. The entry which we have to construe for answering the reference is 'handloom cloth including pagri etc.' The word 'cloth' has been qualified by the word 'handloom' to indicate the process by which the cloth was manufactured. There is no disagreement between the parties that Durries for which exemption is claimed are also manufactured by the same process as any other handloom cloth. Therefore, the word that requires closer examination is 'cloth' and the significance of the clauses which follow it.

9. The golden rule is that the words of a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning. In R. v. Peters (1886) 16 Q.B.D. 636 (641), said Lord Coleridge :

I am quite aware that dictionaries are not to be taken as authoritative exponents of the meanings of the words used in Acts of Parliament, but it is a well known rule of courts of law that words should be taken to be used in their ordinary sense, and we are therefore, sent for instruction to these books.

10. Now the word 'cloth' has been understood by the following Lexicographers as under :-

1. The Oxford English Dictionary : 'A piece of pliable woven or felted stuff, suitable for wrapping or winding round, spreading or folding over, drying, wiping, or other purpose; a swaddling or winding cloth, wrap, covering, veil, curtain, handkerchief, towel, etc.'

2. Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary : 'a woven, knitted, or pressed fabric of fibrous material, as wool, hair, cotton, flax, hemp, synthetic fibres etc., used for garments or other covering, and for various other purposes, as household furnishings...'.

3. Twentieth Century' Chambers's Dictionary: 'woven material from which garments or coverings are made : a piece of this material : clothing: the usual dress of a trade or profession, esp. the clerical : a table-cloth : sails: a theatre curtain....

11. The meaning assigned to the word 'cloth' in three~ standard dictionaries aforesaid is substantially the same. The word has threefold points of reference : one, the material of which it is made; two, the manner in which it is made ; and three, the uses to which it is put.

12. With respect to the first two aspects there is evidently no dispute in the instant case as the material of which Durry and cloth are made may be taken to be identical and so also the manner in which the two are made. It is with reference to the use to which the fibrous woven material on handloom is put that the conflict accentuates. The assessee maintains that the word 'covering' is wide enough to include a 'Durry' as it covers a floor or a stair-case while the department resists such a wide application.

13. It is, therefore, clear that if we give cloth and covering their generic import, 'Durry' would appear to be included in the term. On the contrary, if a narrower interpretation is put, 'Durry' would appear to be excluded. The learned counsel for the assessee invoked the aid of the doctrine that it is a fiscal matter and the beneficial construction should be put. We are unable to agree. As we have already noticed the item which we are called upon to interpret is an exemption pursuant to the provisions of Section 4(2) of the Act. Section 3 is the charging section and it is in those cases alone where public interest demands that the State Government may exempt certain sales from being included in taxable turnover. Lord Halsbury, L.C., in Inland Revenue Commissioners v. 'Forrest (1890) 15 App. Gas. 334, observed that all exemptions 'from taxation increase the burden on other members of the community and should, therefore, be deprecated. Similar has been the view of the High Courts in India. In Kapildeoram Baijnath Prosad v. J. K. Das [1954] 5 S.T.C. 365 to which one of us was a party, it has been observed :

All exemptions from taxation must be strictly construed and must not be extended beyond the express requirements of the language used. These taxation laws are not in the nature of penal laws ; they are substantially remedial in their character and are intended to prevent fraud, suppress public wrong and promote the public good. They should, therefore, be construed in such a way as to accomplish those objects.

14. It is from this view of the law that the relevant entry has to be examined.

15. Some assistance can indeed be had in ascertaining the intention of the draftsman by reference to the words which follow 'handloom cloth'. They are 'including pagri made of handloom cloth (with or without challa) safa....' Evidently these items are intended to be included in the word 'handloom cloth'. The word 'including' or 'includes' has been usually understood to enlarge rather than restrict the meaning of the word after which it has been used. Lord Watson observed in Dilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps [1899] A.C. 99 (105), that the word 'include' is very generally used in interpretation clauses to enlarge the meaning of the words or phrases. The need for this enlargement in the instant case gives us a clue to the author's intention, namely, that he used the word 'cloth' in its narrower sense, and with a view to enlarge its denotation he was impelled to have recourse to the usual method of 'including'. The learned counsel for the assessee suggested that he did so because embroidery work in a handloom pagri would have been otherwise outside the pale of handloom cloth. We are unable to accept the suggestion for the simple reason that pagri has been included both with and without challa.

16. In our opinion, therefore, item 3 of the Notification of 14th April, 1955, when it exempted handloom cloth, it did so in its narrower meaning and 'Durry' was not intended to be included in this exemption. We answer the question referred to us in the affirmative.

17. As there was a legitimate dispute relating to interpretation, we leave the parties to bear their own costs.


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