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K.M. Parthasarathi Chetty Vs. the Secretary of State for India in Council and P.A. Madurai Chetty - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCommercial
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported in(1932)62MLJ387
AppellantK.M. Parthasarathi Chetty
RespondentThe Secretary of State for India in Council and P.A. Madurai Chetty
Cases ReferredBrito v. The Secretary of State
Excerpt:
.....end of rule (1) 'and the rate of such duty shall be that in force on the date of removal of the salt from the factory. 11. there is no justification whatever for the addition of the words 'to be paid by the applicants'.the learned government pleader has admitted that there would be no justification in calling on the licensee in a case like the present when he is not the person who has removed the salt to pay the amount of the duty, and that it is payable by the purchaser. but we would like to point out the very grave result of the alteration throwing personal responsibility on two persons on whom no personal responsibility has been cast by the act by some irresponsible editor in issuing the slip. agreeing with the decision clearly quoted we find that plaintiff was not personally..........the appellant before us, purchased 800 maunds of salt from one chengalvaroya chetty who was a salt licensee at cove-long factory, chingleput district. he applied on the 27th february, 1923, for permission to remove the said 800 maunds and obtained the same. but on account of certain restrictions made by the government authorities as to the hours of removal he could not remove the salt till the 1st march, 1923. on that day the salt-tax had been increased by another rs. 1-4-0 per maund. this sum was not collected from the plaintiff at that time and the salt was taken away. a demand for the payment of the sum of rs. 1,000 was made on the 23rd march, 1923 and although he denied the liability, he paid the rs. 1,000 under protest as he was threatened with coercive process and in order to.....
Judgment:

Pakenham Walsh, J.

1. The plaintiff in this case, the appellant before us, purchased 800 maunds of salt from one Chengalvaroya Chetty who was a salt licensee at Cove-long factory, Chingleput District. He applied on the 27th February, 1923, for permission to remove the said 800 maunds and obtained the same. But on account of certain restrictions made by the Government authorities as to the hours of removal he could not remove the salt till the 1st March, 1923. On that day the salt-tax had been increased by another Rs. 1-4-0 per maund. This sum was not collected from the plaintiff at that time and the salt was taken away. A demand for the payment of the sum of Rs. 1,000 was made on the 23rd March, 1923 and although he denied the liability, he paid the Rs. 1,000 under protest as he was threatened with coercive process and in order to avoid attachment and loss of his property. He brought this suit against the Secretary of State for India to recover the sum he paid under protest.

2. The defendant, the Secretary of State for India, pleaded in paragraph 5 of his written statement that

under the Government of India Notification No. 4361, dated 24th Aprils 1915, printed in G.O. No. 300 of 3rd May, 1915, of the Government of Madras the duty payable is at the rate in force on the date on which the salt is actually removed.

3. The learned City Civil Judge found in favour of the plaintiff and this decree was reversed in Appeal by Waller, J., and the present Letters Patent Appeal is against that decree.

4. In order to understand the contention of the plaintiff it is necessary to quote the rule under which salt, which is the property of a licensee, can be removed from the factory. This is found in the Salt Manual, Section 81(2), which runs as follows:

(1) An application in the prescribed form, signed by the licensee and the purchaser or their authorised agents, must be presented to the officer in charge of the factory together with the Shroff's receipt for the amount of the duty and the other charges under Section 43-B of the Salt Act, (Sic) on the salt at least the day before the delivery of the salt is required. This rule may however be relaxed at the discretion of the Commissioner in factories where the issues per diem are small and where previous arrangements to provide officers for the conduct of sales are not required. An order for the delivery of the salt in the prescribed form will in any case be sent to the weighing officer. The duty and other charges to be paid by the applicants shall be those in force at the time of the removal of the salt from the factory.

5. Sub-section (ii) says:

When the weighment and bagging of the salt is completed, the weighing officer will fill up and sign the permit which will be countersigned after check-weighment by the officer in charge of the factory, who will then allow the removal of the salt.

6. The notification quoted in paragraph 5 of the written statement was not produced at the trial or in 1st Appellate Court and in fact Waller, J., based his judgment on the fact that as he says:

A perfectly valid rule had been framed under Section 85 of the Act, laying down that the duty payable is that in force at the time of the removal.

7. Relying also on this rule he was not prepared to follow Brito v. The Secretary of State for India I.L.R. (1881) 6 B. 251 on the ground that it was not known whether such a rule as this was in force in Bombay at the time of that decision.

8. Before us it was argued that the rule framed under Section 85(2)(b) of the Madras Salt Act(IV of 1889)by the Governor-in-Council, Madras, was ultra vires; but when it came to arguments it was for the first time pointed out that the G.O. mentioned in paragraph 5 of the written statement was not one professing to be framed under Section 85 of Act IV of 1889 but professed to announce the rules framed by the Governor-Gene-ral-in-Council under Section 28 of the Indian Salt Act (XII of 1882), Notification No. 4631, dated the 24th April, 1915. We think that we can decide this case on another branch of the argument without going into the question of whether the rule relied on was ultra vires. It is contended for the appellant that under the Madras Salt Act (IV of 1889) no personal liability attaches to the purchaser in such a case and that consequently Section 84 of the Salt Act under which this sum was sought to be recovered is not applicable. We think that this contention is well founded, and it has the support of the decision of a Bench of two Judges of this Court in C.C.C. Appeal No. 14 of 1918, with the reasoning in which we agree. This decision was relied on by the learned City Civil Judge. Waller, J., refused to follow it relying on the rule framed quoted above; but the rule does not touch the question of personal liability and he does not discuss the question as to whether the liability is on the person or on the salt. Section 43 of Act IV of 1889 deals with the removal of Salt from the factory, and it says:

subject to any rules which may be made by the (Governor-General-in-Council) under Section 85 and the (Collector of Salt Revenue) under Section 85-A no salt shall be removed from any salt factory, otherwise than on account of Government or for transport to a place of storage authorized by the (Collector of Salt Revenue) and no salt shall be removed from such authorised place of storage, except under a permit and upon payment of duty at the rate fixed by the Governor-General-in-Council under the Indian Salt Act of 1882 and of the following charges.

9. There is nothing here which creates any personal liability. However, it was attempted to be argued before us that Rule 81(2) of the Salt Manual as amended laid down that

The duty and other charges to be paid by the applicants shall be those in force at the time of the removal of salt from the factory.

10. It was argued that this rule throws the personal liability on the applicants. Now we find from the earlier part of the rule that the application is to be 'signed by the licensee and the purchaser or his authorised agents.' So presumably these persons are the applicants. The addition of the words 'to be paid by the applicants' found in the Manual appears to be without any authority whatever. In the amendment slip in the book it purports to be authorised by a G.O. No. 411, Separate Revenue, dated 14th June, 1915, which was issued with reference to G.O. No. 300, dated the 3rd May 1915, alluded to above. In the whole of that Order there is nothing about the payment by the applicants and the alteration which is referred to in the suit is clearly the first which runs

Add the following at the end of Rule (1) 'And the rate of such duty shall be that in force on the date of removal of the salt from the factory.

11. There is no justification whatever for the addition of the words 'to be paid by the applicants'. The learned Government Pleader has admitted that there would be no justification in calling on the licensee in a case like the present when he is not the person who has removed the salt to pay the amount of the duty, and that it is payable by the purchaser. Yet the words relied on would obviously make the licensee liable also. The argument founded on the amendment of Rule 81(2)(i) therefore fails; but we would like to point out the very grave result of the alteration throwing personal responsibility on two persons on whom no personal responsibility has been cast by the Act by some irresponsible editor in issuing the slip.

12. The learned Government Pleader then relies on the words in Section 84 of Act IV of 1889:

All sums recoverable under this Act or in any way due to Government on account of the Salt Revenue may be deducted by the (Collector of Salt Revenue) from, any money owing to the person from whom such sums may be recoverable or due which may be in the hands of the (Collector of Salt Revenue) or under his disposal or control or may be recovered by the (Collector of Salt Revenue) by attachment and sale of salt belonging to such person and remaining within the limits of a factory. If not so recovered such sums may be recovered by Collectors of Districts on application from the (Collector of Salt Revenue) as if they were arrears of land revenue.

13. This is really begging the question. The point at issue is (1) whether the sum is recoverable at all and (2) whether if it is 'due to the Government' at all it is due from any one personally.

14. It is an elementary principle that fiscal enactments must be construed strictly in favour of the subject. We find nothing in the Act which creates a personal liability in this case. It may be noted that under Section 41 when a licensee fails when called on to pay salt duty on salt still in the factory it cannot be recovered from him personally but only by sale of the salt, and the only charge for which he is personally liable is the cost of destroying the salt if that course is found necessary.

15. In the light of Section 41 it would be extraordinary to hold that a person, not the licensee but the purchaser, can be personally liable for the duty on salt which is not even inside the factory but has been allowed to leave it after paying what was considered the correct duty. Agreeing with the decision clearly quoted we find that plaintiff was not personally liable to pay the enhanced duty.

16. It therefore becomes unnecessary to consider a third ground raised in appeal that assuming the order notifying the change of the Rule 81(2)(i) is not ultra vires it conflicts with the rest of the rule which says that the duty should be paid on the day previous to presenting the application; that hence arises an ambiguity and that in enforcing a fiscal liability the subject should be given the benefit of the ambiguity. It has not been seriously contended that the relaxation of the rule mentioned in the second part of Rule 81(2)(i) can apply to the present case because the restriction of hours was deliberately made to reduce removals to the normal daily amounts when it was anticipated that otherwise they would be greater. There certainly does appear to us to be a clear contradiction involved in the case of a purchaser who has not the credit alluded in Rule 86(1), but we need not consider that matter further. The appeal succeeds and is allowed with costs in all Courts.


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