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Burmah Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company of India Limited and ors. Vs. the State of Madras - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case Number Tax Case Nos. 108 to 110 of 1967 (Revision Nos. 61, 62 and 63)
Judge
Reported in[1968]21STC227(Mad)
AppellantBurmah Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company of India Limited and ors.
RespondentThe State of Madras
Appellant Advocate V.K. Thiruvenkatachari, Adv. for ;C.S. Chandrasekhara Sastry, ;C. Venkataraman and ; C. Natarajan, Advs.
Respondent Advocate The Special Government Pleader
DispositionPetition allowed
Cases ReferredCoimbatore Division v. Sri Thirumagal Mills Ltd.
Excerpt:
.....words, from the context and de hors the statement of objects and reasons, the words 'all kinds of mineral oils' are capable of a wide meaning and would well include mineral oils which are not lubricants. the words '(not otherwise provided for in this act)' can only refer, in the context, to mineral oils which are lubricants and which are provided for elsewhere in the schedule than in item 47. if the legislature intended that mineral oils other than lubricants are to be brought within the single point scheme of taxation, we fail to see how and why it failed to make an independent entry, but chose to interpose the words 'all kinds of mineral oils' between the words in the entry which cover only lubricants. 287). so far as the penalty is concerned, this clearly is unsupportable, because..........act vii of 1964, which came into effect from april 1, 1964, reads:lubricating oils, all kinds of mineral oils (not otherwise provided for in this act), quenching oils and greases.3. it is not disputed for the revenue that furnace oil is not a lubricant. under the head of 'lubrication' in van nostrand's scientific encyclopaedia, this is what is stated at page 888:-lubricants are employed in engineering practice for two reasons : (1) to diminish friction between the moving surfaces of machine parts; and(2) to decrease friction between a cutting tool and the material to be cut, and at the same time serve to dissipate the heat developed in the machining operation. when the heat-dissipating function is of primary importance, the lubricant is usually referred to as a coolant. lubricants may.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Veeraswami, J.

1. These cases raise the question of the scope of entry 47 in Schedule I to the Madras General Sales Tax Act, 1959, more specifically whether the entry includes furnace oil. Besides, certain subsidiary questions also arise, which in most part are covered by authority. The assessee is the Burmah Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company of India, Limited, which has been assessed to sales tax for the assessment year 19'64-65. In the first of these cases, there are four items of turnover, a sum of Rs. 2,08,52,235.42 representing the turnover of sales of furnace oil, Rs. 22,234.59 being the turnover of canteen sales, Rs. 1,97,917.20 representing sales of publicity materals, and the last a sum of Rs. 29,660.00 being the aggregate sales of scrap. In respect of the turnover of sales of publicity materials, a penalty of Rs. 1,000 was levied on the ground that there was a failure to return that amount. The assessing officer considered that furnace oil fell within the ambit of item 47 and brought them to tax at 6 per cent. On the view that the other items of turnover constituted sales in the course of business, they too were charged to tax. The assessee has failed throughout, the Tribunal taking the view that furnace oil as mineral oil was well within the ambit of the entry and that the other items of turnover represented sales effected by the assessee as a dealer in the course of its business. In the other two tax cases also the question as to the scope of entry 47 arises in relation to furnace oil, and an additional point in T.C. No. 110 of 1967, is as to the taxability of the sales of scrap.

2. Entry 47 as it originally stood was 'lubricating oils and greases'. The entry as amended by Madras Act VII of 1964, which came into effect from April 1, 1964, reads:

Lubricating oils, all kinds of mineral oils (not otherwise provided for in this Act), quenching oils and greases.

3. It is not disputed for the revenue that furnace oil is not a lubricant. Under the head of 'Lubrication' in Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopaedia, this is what is stated at page 888:-

Lubricants are employed in engineering practice for two reasons :

(1) to diminish friction between the moving surfaces of machine parts; and

(2) to decrease friction between a cutting tool and the material to be cut, and at the same time serve to dissipate the heat developed in the machining operation. When the heat-dissipating function is of primary importance, the lubricant is usually referred to as a coolant.

Lubricants may be classified either by state as liquid, semi-solid, or solid, or by origin as mineral, vegetable, or animal...

Mineral oils are refined from crude oil by separating and purifying the various heavy components of the crude...the methods of treatment vary widely.

4. In that sense, fuel oil is obviously not a lubricant. In fact, it is a combustible article used in industry for fuel purposes which may be varying in character. But the revenue's point of view is that although fuel oil is not a lubricant, it being mineral oil, it squarely falls within the ambit of the words 'all kinds of mineral oils' in entry 47.

5. For the assessee it is urged that those words in the context of the words preceding and following should be given a limited meaning and be understood as 'all kinds of mineral oils which are lubricants'. This construction is sought to be supported in two ways, one by reference to the objects and reasons of the amendment by Act VII of 1964, and the other by the aid of the ejusdem generis rule.

6. In the statement of objects and reasons, it was said:

Under item 47 in the First Schedule to the said Act, 'lubricating oils and greases' are liable to a single point tax at the point of first sale in this State. A doubt has been raised whether soluble quenching oil which is a mineral oil and which is used as a lubricating oil would fall under the said item 47. It has, therefore, become necessary to amend the said item 47, so as to include within its scope all kinds of mineral oils (not otherwise provided for in the said Act) and quenching oils.

7. In construing an enactment, particularly an amending provision, it is permissible to have regard, and sometimes it may be necessary to do so, to the history of the amendment and the reasons which led to its enactment. It would then be pertinent to see what was the evil or mischief that existed before and had to be cured, and how the cure or remedy has been provided. This principle of construction has now been well recognised for long from Heydon's case, (1584) 3 Co. Rep. 7 and has been referred to with approval in Income-tax Commissioner v. Sodra Devi : [1957]32ITR615(SC) . From that point of view and for that limited purpose, the Court may be justified in its effort to construe the amending Act in referring to the statement of objects and reasons. In Income-tax Commissioner v. Sodra Devi : [1957]32ITR615(SC) , itself this was stated in these terms :

What was intended to be done by the Legislature in enacting this amendment may be gleaned to a certain extent from the statement of objects and reasons appended to the Bill which eventually became the amending Act.

8. The statement of objects and reasons for Madras Act VII of 1964 appears to be that because a doubt had been raised whether soluble quenching oil which is a mineral oil was a lubricant, it became necessary to amend item 47. It was for that reason the entry was amended as it appears now. Quenching oil is a coolant and is also used as a lubricant. A reference to certain publications, which we need not refer to, confirms this. That quenching oil is a mineral oil is not in controversy before us. Entry 47 begins with the words 'lubricating oils' and ends by the words 'quenching oils and greases'. In between the two groups are found inserted the words 'all kinds of mineral oils (not otherwise provided for in this Act)'. Having regard to the objects and reasons we referred to, which were not designed to introduce into item 47 something which was not a lubricant oil, and the association of words preceding and following the words 'all kinds of mineral oils', we are inclined to think that by those words what the Legislature intended is all kinds of mineral oils which are lubricants. We agree with the Tribunal that dissociated from the associated words, from the context and de hors the statement of objects and reasons, the words 'all kinds of mineral oils' are capable of a wide meaning and would well include mineral oils which are not lubricants. But, since these words appear in the context and association of words and the amending Act was intended merely to clear the doubt, it appears clear that the words 'all kinds of mineral oils' in the entry bear only a limited meaning, namely, mineral oils which are lubricants. The Tribunal has construed the words '(not otherwise provided for in this Act)' as reflecting a larger meaning or fuller scope of the words 'all kinds of mineral oils'. We are unable to accept this view. The words '(not otherwise provided for in this Act)' can only refer, in the context, to mineral oils which are lubricants and which are provided for elsewhere in the Schedule than in item 47. If the Legislature intended that mineral oils other than lubricants are to be brought within the single point scheme of taxation, we fail to see how and why it failed to make an independent entry, but chose to interpose the words 'all kinds of mineral oils' between the words in the entry which cover only lubricants.

9. We are of opinion, therefore, that entry 47, as amended in 1964, does not include furnace oil which is a non-lubricant.

10. On that view it will be unnecessary to invoke the aid of the ejusdem generis rule. Since, however, argument has been addressed to us, we will briefly deal with that aspect too. The rule is that where specific words are followed by general expressions, the latter notwithstanding their wider tenor in ordinary parlance de hors the context, will take their complexion and content from the preceding words. It has been said-see for instance Craies on Statute Law, Sixth Edition, at page 181-that:

To invoke the application of the ejusdem generis rule there must be a distinct genus or category. The specific words must apply not to different objects of a widely differing character but to something which can be called a class or kind of objects. Where this is lacking, the rule cannot apply, but the mention of a single species does not constitute a genus.

11. Farwell, L.J., in Tillmans & Co. v. S. S. Knutsford [1908] 2 K.B. 385; observed:

Unless you can find a category, there is no room for the application of the ejusdem generis doctrine.

12. This principle finds recognition in Jagdish Chandra v. Kajaria Traders (India) Ltd. : [1964]8SCR50 where the Supreme Court stated:

It follows, therefore, that interpretation ejusdem generis or noscitur a sociis need not always be made when words showing particular classes are followed by general words. Before the general words can be so interpreted there must be a genus constituted or a category disclosed with reference to which the general words can and are intended to be restricted.

13. The argument before us is that the opening words in entry 47, to wit, lubricating oils, constitute a genus and the following words 'quenching oils and greases' are but species of the genus. If two species are mentioned followed by general words, the rule of ejusdem generis may limit the sense of the general words to the species constituting a genus. But where a genus itself is mentioned followed by mention of certain species and in between is introduced general words, we think the position is a fortiori, for, sandwiched as they are, the general words will, in our opinion, take their sense and scope from the associated words preceding and following them. No direct authority has been quoted to us; but we think that the principle of the rule of ejusdem generis, having regard to the essence of it, will apply to the situation limiting the meaning of the general words to that of the genus and the species mentioned. On this basis too, we arrive at the same conclusion that entry 47 in Schedule I to the Act does not include furnace oil.

14. We pass on to a consideration of the chargeability of the sales of publicity materials. The Tribunal finds that the assessee places bulk orders to secure the materials at a reduced cost for their distributors and hand over such publicity materials to them either at cost price or at less than cost price. For the assessee, the view of the Tribunal is attacked from two standpoints. The first is that on that finding there was no purchase or sale at all in the true sense by the assessee; and secondly, even if there was, it was not as a dealer. We think it will suffice to deal with the second. The object of the assessee which is a limited company, is not shown to be to engage itself in the trade or commerce of publicity materials. It may be that distribution of the publicity materials to the distributors is connected with the business of the assessee. But that will not be sufficient to make it a trade or an activity in a commercial sense. It would be inappropriate, in our opinion, in the circumstances to regard the assessee as a dealer in publicity materials while the distribution of the publicity materials at cost price or less than the cost price was intended solely for the purpose of advertisement. While the distribution may be connected, as we said, with the pursuit of the assessee's business, it is not by itself its business carried on as a dealer. On that view we think that the turnover relating to sales of publicity materials is not chargeable to tax.

15. That the sales of scrap by the assessee is not liable to tax, is covered by the principle of our judgment in T.C. Nos. 170 and 213 of 1964 Loyal Textile Mills, Kovilpatti v. State of Madras by D.C.T.O., Tirunel-veli p. 195 supra and so too canteen sales by our judgment in T.C. No. 152 of 1964 (The Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Coimbatore Division v. Sri Thirumagal Mills Ltd. [1967] 20 S.T.C. 287). So far as the penalty is concerned, this clearly is unsupportable, because the turnover relating to publicity materials was disclosed by the assessee's accounts and it cannot be suggested that the return submitted was incomplete or inaccurate and that a best judgment in that sense was called for. Section 12(3) of the Act will clearly have no application. We hold, therefore, that the penalty of Rs. 1,000 is illegal.

16. The tax cases are allowed with costs one set. Counsel's fee Rs. 250.


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