1. This revision is preferred by the State against the order passed by the Tribunal holding that the assessee is liable to pay tax at the rate of 3 per cent, and not 6 percent, in respect of a portion of his turnover relating to 'hairpins', as in its view that item would fall within one of the items enumerated in item 23 of the First Schedule and not under item 51 of the same Schedule.
2. The assessee is a dealer in plastic goods carrying on business under the name and style of Ambica Stores at 1/10, Narayana Mudali Street. His turnover for 1959-60 was determined by the Joint Commercial Tax Officer and he was assessed to tax at varying rates according to the type of goods comprised in the turnover. In this revision, the controversy is only about the rate of tax on the turnover of about Rs. 16,376.46 nP. relating to iron hairpins. The Joint Commercial Tax Officer, Sowcarpet Division-1, treated these goods as toilet requisites, which is one of the articles enumerated in item 51 of the First Schedule, and assessed the relevant turnover to tax at 6 per cent.
3. The assessee preferred an appeal to the Appellate Assistant Commissioner disputing the levy of tax at 6 per cent, on the hairpins and contended that they would properly be classifiable as one of the goods enumerated in item 23 of the First Schedule, viz., articles made of iron materials. The Appellate Assistant Commissioner came to the conclusion that the hairpin is a toilet requisite, that it is quite immaterial whether it is made of iron or any other material and that it should be considered as one of the items enumerated in item 51 of the First Schedule. He therefore held that the sale of iron hairpins was rightly assessed at 6 per cent. single point under item 51 of the First Schedule and dismissed the appeal.
4. The assessee filed a further appeal to the Tribunal. The Tribunal after considering the literal meaning of the words 'toilet requisites', and the scope of the articles enumerated in items 23 and 51 of the First Schedule and applying the familiar rule of construction known as the rule of ejusdem generis took the view that hairpins could not be included in the list of items enumerated in item 51 of the First Schedule.
5. The Tribunal held that hairpins being made of iron material would come under item 23 and the turnover relating thereto should be taxed at 3 per cent., and not at 6 per cent, as toilet requisites, and remanded the matter to the Appellate Assistant Commissioner to ascertain the particulars of turnover and get the assessment modified in the light of its order.
6. It is against this order of the Tribunal the State filed the present revision. It is contended that the Tribunal should not have applied the rule of ejusdem generis and that hairpins being one, of the essential items of 'toilet requisites' will certainly fall under item 51 of the First Schedule. It is urged that the Tribunal should have taken the comprehensive meaning of the words 'toilet requisites' instead of taking a restricted and narrow view based on the rule of ejusdem generis and that it is unnecessary to consider the material used in making the hairpins, since hairpins made of whatever material should be treated as one of the toilet requisites falling under item 51.
7. The main point for consideration in this revision is whether the hairpin, which is admittedly made of iron material, would come within the articles mentioned in item 23 of the First Schedule or the articles mentioned in item 51 of that Schedule. It is necessary for us to refer to the items enumerated in item 23, the relevant portion of which reads:.hardware, iron and steel (other than those mentioned under declared goods) and all articles made therefrom (excluding articles used for agricultural purposes) and all items specifically provided in the schedule.
8. The prescribed rate of tax for these articles is 3 per cent, and the point of tax is the first sale in the State. The goods enumerated in item 51 of the First Schedule are :
Scents and perfumes, powders, snows, scented hair oils, scented sticks, cosmetics and toilet requisites, except soaps.
9. We have to consider whether the hairpins could be deemed to come within the description of 'toilet requisites' in item 51 of the First Schedule, as contended by the State ; or in other words, whether by applying the familiar rule of ejusdem generis, hairpins could be included as belonging to the same kind of goods enumerated in item 51 of the First Schedule.
10. The words ejusdem generis mean 'of the same kind or nature'. Black in his book 'Interpretation of Laws', Hornbook Series, 2nd Edition (1911), at page 203 states :
It is a general rule of statutory construction that where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same general kind or class as those specifically mentioned. But this rule must be discarded where the legislative intention is plain to the contrary.
11. The same rule has been put in a different way by Crawford in his book 'Statutory Construction'. At page 326 the learned author says :
Where general words follow the designation of particular things, or classes of persons, or subjects, the general words will usually be construed to include only those persons or things of the same class or general nature as those specifically enumerated.
12. Maxwell in his book 'Interpretation of Statutes', 11th Edition (1962), says at page 326 :
But the general word which follows particular and specific words of the same nature as itself takes its meaning from them and is presumed to be restricted to the same genus as those words. In other words, it has to be read as comprehending only things of the same kind as those designated by them, unless, of course, there be something to show that a wider sense was intended.
13. The rule of ejusdem generis is not one of universal application. It is only a rule of construction to be applied as an aid in ascertaining the correct meaning of words when there is uncertainty or ambiguity. It may be resorted to not to obscure and defeat the intent and purpose of the Legislature but to elucidate its words and effectuate its intent. In order to apply this rule it must clearly appear that the Legislature was thinking of a particular class of persons or objects. Lord Halsbury explained this rule thus in Thames and Mersey Marine Insurance Co. v. Hamilton (1887) 12 App. Cas. 484:
Two rules of construction now firmly established as part of our law may be considered as limiting those words. One is that words, however general, may be limited with respect to the subject-matter in relation to which they are used. The other is that general words may be restricted to the same genus as the specific words that precede them.
14. Books on interpretation of statutes provide numerous examples of application of this rule. The Sunday Observance Act, 1677 (Clause 7) which enacts that 'no tradesman, artificer, workman, labourer, or other person whatsoever, shall do or exercise any labour, business or work of their ordinary callings upon the Lord's Day', has been held not to include a coach proprietor, a farmer, a barber, and possibly a solicitor, the word 'person' being confined to followers of callings like those specified by the preceding words.
15. Another case which is also frequently cited in text books is Clark v. Gaskarth (1818) 8 Taunt 431 where the Court had to consider Section 8 of the Distress for Rent Act, 1737, which authorises the distress for rent of 'corn, grass or other product' growing on the demised lands. The Court applied this rule and held that the words 'other product' did not extend to trees and shrubs growing on the demised land, but were confined to products of a similar nature with those specified in that section.
16. We may refer to a few cases where this principle has been applied by Courts in India. In Ratansi Hirji v. Emperor A.I.R. 1929 Bom. 274, the Bombay High Court had to interpret Section 412-A (b) of the City of Bombay Municipal Act, which is as follows :-
No person shall without or otherwise than in conformity with the terms of a licence granted by the Commissioner in this behalf-
(b) use any place in the City for the sale of milk, butter or other milk products.
17. It was argued on behalf of the prosecution in that case that ghee is included in the words 'other milk products'. On the other hand, it was urged that ghee was not included in those words as it is not a direct product of milk, though butter is a product of milk and ghee can be prepared from the butter. The Court observed at page 275 :
The words 'other milk products' appearing in Section 412-A (b) should, in my opinion, be construed ejusdem generis with reference to what precedes those words. In that view, 'other milk products' would be of the same kind or nature as milk or butter. The meaning to be given to the words 'other milk products' should be less comprehensive than they would otherwise be if they stood by themselves without the words 'milk, butter' preceding them.
18. Again at page 278 the Court observed :
Section 412-A (b) refers to the sale of milk, butter or other milk products and if the words 'other milk products' are to be used ejusdem generis with butter they would include such products of milk as are the direct results of milk, as butter, that is curd, whey, cream etc., but would not include ghee which is not a direct product of milk, but is prepared out of butter which is a direct product of milk. Further, 'other milk products', if construed strictly, and ejusdem generis with milk and butter, would include such products of milk as are liable to speedy decay, like butter, as for example, whey, curd or cream, and would not include ghee which is not liable to speedy decay.
19. The ejusdem generis rule was applied by our High Court in In re Hassan Sahib, (1915) 30 I.C. 1004 where the decision turned upon the construction of a By-law of the Ootacamund Municipality, which runs as follows :
Every vehicle used within the Municipality for the conveyance of bricks, stone, metal or other building materials shall be so constructed that the contents shall be duly secured therein during transit through the public streets. Owners of vehicles failing to secure such conditions shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Rs. 20.
20. The question arose whether sand should be regarded as 'other building material'. Ayling, J., observed :-
The question is one by no means easy of decision...As has been pointed out, sand may be used for many purposes unconnected with building and in the present case there appears to be no evidence to show for what purpose the sand in the cart was destined. Apart from this, the object of the section is obviously the protection of the public streets from the obstruction caused by the accidental falling out of the contents of moving carts. In the case of bricks, stone and metal... this obstruction is obvious, inevitable and a serious nuisance. So much cannot be predicated of sand...I think...'other building materials' must be ejusdem generis to bricks, stone, and road-metal in its potentially deleterious effect on the public thoroughfares, and that sand does not satisfy this requirement.
21. Bearing these principles in mind we have to see whether the ejusdem generis rule can be applied to the facts of this case. Item 51 of the First Schedule enumerates the various kinds of things which possess a common characteristic or quality. All the articles in item 51 are intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled or sprayed or introduced into or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or appearance. Thus there is a category of things preceding the words 'toilet requisites'. It remains to be ascertained whether the hairpins could be included in the words 'toilet requisites'. The learned Government Pleader asks us to read the words 'toilet requisites' according to their wide general meaning. It is clear that the articles enumerated in item 51 denote a particular description of property. The words 'toilet requisites' should be taken as referring only to objects of the same kind or nature and not intended to extend to objects of a wholly different kind. A hairpin could not be treated as of the same category, as it could not be used either for cleansing or beautifying the body. It is only used for holding the hair.
22. We therefore feel that the words 'toilet requisites' should be given a restrictive meaning and should not be taken to include every kind of goods, but only goods of the nature enumerated in item 51. It may be pointed out here that the State also has thought fit to delete the words 'toilet requisites and cosmetics' from the articles mentioned in item 51, by Amending Act 6 of 1963. We therefore agree with the view taken by the Tribunal that the hairpins cannot be included in the list of items enumerated in item 51, and that the turnover relating to hairpins should be assessed under item 23 only.
23. The revision is therefore dismissed with costs, Rs. 100.