1. The petitioner is the sole proprietor of a business at Madura to run in the name and style of Sri Kittappa Dress Manufacturing and Embroidery Works. He is a ' dealer' in textiles, within the charging provisions of the Madras General Sales Tax Act. He is dealing in ready-made garments, silk choli-bits and sarees. In the year 1955-56 he carried on business between 1st April, 1955 and 16th May, 1955 and again from 12th July, 1955 to 31st March, 1956. For that year he returned his turnover of sales as Rs. 95,600-8-3. The Deputy Commercial Tax Officer, Madurai Town III, scrutinised the account books of the petitioner and found that the net turn-over of the petitioner was as follows : (1). Ready-made garments--Rs. 19,165-4-3; (2) First sales of silk choli-bits--Rs. 74,471-0,9; (3) First sales of sarees--Rs. 2,013-15-6; Total Rs. 95,650-4-6. In respect of the sales turn-over of the ready-made garments (the tax was levied at the rate of 3 pies per rupee, but in respect of the sales turn-over of ' choli-bits ' and sarees, tax was levied at the rate of Re. 0-1-6 per rupee. The petitioner, contended before the Deputy Commercial Tax Officer, Madurai Town III, that the levy of tax at the rate of Re. 0-1-6 for silk choli-bits and sarees was not proper or in conformity with the provisions of the Madras General Sales Tax Act. This contention was however overruled by the taxing authority. The petitioner preferred an appeal against the levy of Re. 0-1-6 tax on the silk choli-bits and sarees to the Commercial Tax Officer, Madurai, but that was dismissed. There was a further appeal by the petitioner before the Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal, Madras, in Tax Appeal No. 828 of 1957. The Tribunal confirmed the decision of the taxing authorities. Hence this Revision Petition is filed by the petitioner.
2. The only question that arises for determination in this Revision Petition is whether the assessee is liable to pay sales tax at the rate of Re. 0-1-6 per rupee which is an enhanced levy, the normal rate of taxation being only 3 pies in the rupee. It is necessary to know what are ' choli bits ' before going into the question whether they attract the special taxing provisions of the enactment, Madras General Sales Tax Act. The description of choli-bits is given by the Appellate Tribunal in the following words to which no exception has been taken before us. . .
The appellants cut crepe silk cloth into pieces 7/8 yard in length, which is said to be the average length required to stich a choli or the upper garment of a woman. They get small pieces of embroidery made by a process called applique work, affixed in one or two places on the piece of the cloth selected to coincide roughly with the place where the arms of the wearer would be when the cloth get ultimately switched into a choli. When we enquired orally, the applicants say that the extra work thus done to the cloth enhances its prices by a margin which varies from 4 annas to 12 annas but they could not give any particulars of the exact addition in the value because they have not kept accounts (therefore not made)...
These choli-bits are therefore mere cut pieces of a particular dimension 7/8 yard from a large piece of cloth suitable for being converted into a bodice or the upper garment of a woman. There is of course some embroidery work done in these cut lengths for their ready adaptability of being made into a women's garment. A saree is the familiar women's dress in India and it needs no annotation to understand what it is. Reference may however be made to the dictionary meaning of the team saree. Chamber's Dictionary gives the meaning as 'a long cloth wrapped round the waist and passed over the shoulder and the head.' Oxford Concise Dictionary gives the meaning as 'a length of cotton or silk wrapped round the body; worn as main garment by Hindu women.'
3. We shall now consider as to how far the choli-bits and sarees come within the charging provisions of the Madras General Sales Tax Act so as to attract the levy at the rate of Re. 0-1-3 in excess of the ordinary rate of levy of 3 pies per rupee. Section 3(1) of the Act, the charging section, reads as follows:
Subject to the provisions of this Act, every dealer shall pay for each year a tax on his total turn-over for that year calculated at two per cent. of such turn-over.
Section 3, Sub-section (2) prescribes an enhanced levy of tax on particular kinds of goods. It is in these terms:
On the first sale of any of the goods mentioned below by a dealer who is not exempt from taxation under the next succeeding sub-section, the dealer shall pay a tax at the rate specified as applicable thereto; and the tax shall be paid by the dealer on his turn-over in each year relating to such goods and shall be in addition to the tax to which he is liable under Sub-section (1) on his total turn-over for the year.
Clause (i) of the description of the goods was in varying terms between the years 1954 and 1956 and we are now concerned only with the amendment introduced by Act (III of 1956) which took effect retrospectively as and from 23rd August, 1956. The petitioner does not dispute that this 1956 Amendment applies to his sales turnover for the year 1955-56. The description is in these terms:
(i) Cloth (other than cloth woven on handlooms whether of silk, artificial silk, wool, flax, or any other material) which is not made wholly of cotton--rate of tax on the turnover : 8 per cent.
(i) (a) all hosiery goods other than those made wholly of cotton--8 per cent.
(ii) Cotton cloth (other than cloth woven on handlooms) which is either fine or superfine--8 per cent.
Explanation I describes fine or superfine cotton cloth.
4. It is contended on behalf of the petitioner by his learned Counsel that silk choli-bits and sarees do not answer the description of cloth as given in the taxing statute. The argument urged is that choli-bits and sarees are garments or clothes and not cloth. According to the learned Counsel for the petitioner cloth in its popular sense, and which sense must be deemed to have been imported into the statute by the framers of the Act, can only mean woven stuff in its pristine; native condition and not the embellished stuff.
5. Though Dictionaries are not to be taken as authoritative exponents of the meaning of the statutory language it is permissible to seek instruction from these books to understand the ordinary sense of the words in an enactment. (See Rex v. Peter (1886) L.R. 16 Q.B.D. 636 .The meaning of ' cloth' as set out in the various Dictionaries may now be referred to:
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 wadding or winding cloth, wrap, covering, veil, curtain, handkerchief, towel, etc.'
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 furnishing....
Twentieth Century Chamber'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, especially the clerical, a table-cloth, sails, a theatre curtain...
The term ' clothes ' has received the following meanings:
Oxford Concise Dictionary : Wearing apparel.;
Chamber's Dictionary : Garments are articles of dress.
6. We are unable to agree with the contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioner that choli-bits and sarees are clothes and not cloth. Choli-bits are mere pieces or lengths of cloth in a state of adaptability to be transformed into garments like bodices but by themselves they are neither wearing apparel nor garments. Sarees also are pieces of cloth and can hardly be called garments merely because they are wrapped round the body of a woman. They are not articles of dress like gowns., frocks, and other tailored articles used by women mostly in countries other than India. Having regard to the plain dictionary meaning of the term ' cloth' we have no hesitation in holding that the silk choli-bits and sarees fall within the ambit of cloth under Section 3(2) of the Madras General Sales Tax enactment.
7. It will now be convenient to refer to the decisions relied upon by the learned Counsel for the petitioner.
8. In Ishwardas Kapoor v. Board of Revenue, Bengal (1946) 1 S.T.C. 153, the question for consideration was whether the Banarsi shawls and sarees fall within the benefit of the exemption granted by Section 6 of the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act of 1941. Item 16 of Section 6 of that Enactment granted exemption from assessment of tax in respect of handloom woven cloth. A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, Gentle and Das, JJ., held that the exemption cannot be claimed in respect of Banarsi shawls and sarees. Gentle, J., delivering the Judgment of the Bench observed at page 154:
So far as the first question is concerned, in my opinion, the exception with respect to handloom woven cloth applies only to that cloth simpliciter. If its value is increased other work being carried out upon it, whether it be by hand or by machinery in the way of embroidery, tapestry or the like, then the cloth or the shawl or whatever it may be is not as it comes from the handloom, is not handloom woven cloth simpliciter, but becomes something more than that. In my opinion, the provisions of the section and item 16 apply only to handloom woven cloth which is sold in the same state in which it is when finished and removed from the loom. Therefore it follows that the answer to the first question is in the negative.
We do not know whether there was any special provision in the Bengal Act to warrant the view taken by the learned Judges of the Calcutta High Court. It seems to us that the term ' cloth' has received a very narrow interpretation in that decision.
9. The High Court of Hyderabad in Sharfaji Rao v. Commissioner of Sales Tax (1952) 4 S.T.C. 6, held that Item 17 of Schedule I of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act, 1950, exempting * cloth of such descriptions as may from time to time be specified by notification in the Gazette, costing less per yard than Rs. 3 or such other sum as may be so specified ' cannot apply to ready-made garments made of cloth costing less than Rs. 3 per yard. At page 7, Jagan Mohan Reddy, J., observed:
The Government by Notification No. 75 referred to above specified all cotton cloth of Indian manufacture costing per yard less than Rs. 3 as being exempt from sales tax. Ex facie it would appear that the legislative intent of the above exemption is only to exempt cloth which costs less than Rs. 3 per yard and it can hardly be said that ready-made garments can be sold per yard or that they can be described as cloth costing less than Rs. 3 per yard. The said garments are sold as units which are made out of cloth upon which labour is expended and the cost of which includes cost of the cloth labour and profit. The article so made is entirely a different article from that specified in Item 17.
This decision turned on the terms of the Government notification. It has no application to the facts of the present case. It is not the contention of the State Government that dresses and garments manufactured out of cloth can answer the description of cloth under the charging provision of the Act.
10. The Allahabad 'High Court in Firm Jaswant Rai Jai Narain v. Sales Tax Officer (1955) 6 S.T.C. 386, had to consider the question whether printed handloom articles can be called ready-made garments fit for personal wear and use. The assessee in that case purchased hand-loom and mill-made cloth and printed it and sold it as sarees, lihabs, fards and bed covers, etc. The U.P. Sales Tax Act of 1948 provided under Section 4(1) of the Act that no tax shall be payable on the sale of any goods by the All-India Spinners Association or Gandhi Ashram, Meerut and their branches or such other persons or class of persons as the State Government may from time to time exempt on such conditions and on payment of such fee, if any, not exceeding one thousand rupees annually as may be specified by notification in the Official Gazette. There was a notification exempting cloth manufactured on handloom. The assessee claimed the benefit of this exemption for the sale of his wares, sarees, lihabs, furs, covers, etc. It was held that the assessee could not claim the benefit of the exemption. At page 390 the Division Bench observed as follows:
The first point to be decided is whether the articles sold by the applicant can be treated as 'cloth manufactured on handlooms' within the meaning of the notification mentioned above. We are of opinion that they cannot be so treated. The word 'Cloth' is to be distinguished from 'Clothes' or garments. Cloth is the fabric or material from which 'clothes' are made as wearing apparel or as other articles of personal use. What is exempted under the notification is 'cloth' and not 'clothes.' What the applicant does is to take handloom cloth and either cut it into specific sizes or to have them manufactured into specific sizes so that the pieces can be used as saris, bed covers, lihabs (quilt covers), etc. and then to print them so that they can be readily used for the purpose, for which they are meant. It is quite-obvious that the articles in which the applicant deals are 'clothes' or garments and not 'cloth' within the meaning of the notification.
In Commissioner of Sales Tax, Bangalore, In re (1959) 10 S.T.C. 29, the assessee was a manufacturer of ready-made garments in Bangalore. The question for consideration was whether the goods sold by the assessee fell within the category of ' textiles manufactured by mills * for the purpose of sales tax under the Mysore Sales Tax Act of 1948. A Division Bench of the Mysore High Court held that the ready-made garments were not textiles manufactured by the mills. This case is exactly similar to the case, Sharfaj Rao v. Commissioner of Sales Tax (1952) 4 S.T.C. 6. The learned Chief Justice delivering the Judgment of the Bench observed thus at page 36:
The goods which are sold by the assessee are ready-made garments. The assessee after he had bought the cloth from the mills had to make garments out of the same by applying some process, e.g., by cutting the said cloth and sometimes by stitching one piece to the other. It cannot be said that the goods which came into existence after the assessee applied all these processes, are still the textiles manufactured by the mills.
The two cases, the one reported in Sharfaji Rao v. Commissioner of Sales Tax (1952) 4 S.T.C. 6, and the other in Ishwardas Kapoor v. Board of Revenue, Bengal (1946) 1 S.T.C. 153 were followed. It must be noted that the Mysore case (1959) 10 S.T.C. 29 was concerned only with a dealer in ready-made garments which constituted a finished product or tailored goods and which certainly became goods of a different description from mere cloth.
11. The Rajasthan High Court in the case in Inder Singh v. Sales Tax Officer, City-Circle, Jodhpur (1961) 12 S.T.C. 557 considered the question whether ' durry' (floor carpets) came within the exemption granted for handloom cloth under a State Government notification under the Rajasthan Sales Tax Act. The language of the notification was as follows:
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.
Durry was a handloom cloth intended for covering floor , stairs, etc. While holding that durry did not fall within the exemption the learned Judge observed thus at page 560:
It is therefore clear that if we give cloth and covering their generic import, 'Durry' would appear to be included in the terra. On the contrary, if a narrower interpretation is put 'Durray' would appear to be excluded.
The learned Judges of the Rajasthan High Court took the view that exemptions from taxation must be strictly construed and should not be extended beyond the express requirements of the language used. But it is enough to point out that it was held that even a floor covering carpet would fall within the general sense of the term ' cloth.'
12. The learned Government Pleader, appearing for the State referred us to the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in The Government of Andhra Pradesh v. Venkateswarlu (1960) 11 S.T.C. 561 : (1960) 2 An.W.R. 426, where the learned Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court dissented from the view taken by the; Allahabad High Court in the decision quoted earlier. The assessee in the Andhra Pradesh case was a dealer in fine and superfine printed sarees. The question for consideration was whether the sarees would be covered by the term ' cloth' within the meaning of the said expression in Section 3(2) of the Madras General Sales Tax Act. At page 563, Chandra Reddy, C.J., observes thus:
In our opinion 'cotton cloth' is comprehensive enough to take in sarees or dhoties. We feel that the Legislature has used it in a general sense. In common parlance, the word 'cloth' is used to denote every fabric used for any purpose including the use as a wearing apparel. The word ought to be understood in the widest sense and not in a narrow sense.
Again at page 565 the learned Chief Justice observes:
We are of opinion that the word 'cloth' is of wide connotation embracing dhoties, sarees, etc. We do not think that there is any warrant for limiting it to fabrics sold in yards. A cloth does not cease to be 'cloth' merely because it is used as a dhoti or saree. The use to which sarees and dhoties are put falls within the scope of the expression 'for wrapping or winding round; It is clear from the meanings given in the dictionaries that raiments and dress fall within the ambit of 'cloth'. It follows that sarees and dhoties of a superfine variety are attracted by the definition contained in in item 1 of Section 3, Sub-section (2-A) of the Madras General Sales Tax Act.
13. The meaning of the term ' cloth' under the Sales Tax Act again came up for consideration before the Andhra Pradesh High Court in a subsequent decision in Rai Saheb Chedra Durvasulu v. Sales Tax Officer (1960) 12 S.T.C. 158. In this case the assessee dealer was assessed to tax on the sales turn-over representing the sales of handloom cotton lungis, roomals, saris, and sheilas. The assessee's contention was that these goods were within the meaning of Item 22 of Schedule I of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act and could not be validly brought to tax under the Act. This contention was upheld by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. At page 160 it is observed thus:
It follows from the above observation that 'cloth' as understood in its ordinary sense takes in every fabric used for any purpose including the use as wearing apparel whether it is sold by unit or by yards. When the cloth has, in its generic sense, so wide a connotation, there is no reason why for purposes of Item 2a it should be given a narrower meaning unless there are specific words of limitation therein or there is sufficient contest to warrant the same.
We find ourselves in respectful agreement with the decisions of the Andhra Pradesh High Court referred to above. The term ' cloth' in accordance with its dictionary meaning and in its ordinary popular meaning has to be, understood as any woven fabric or stuff till it is transformed into an article like dress, garment or bed cover, etc., which comes into ready use as such articles.' After such transformation the article can no longer retain its previous state of cloth though it is made of cloth. We are unable to appreciate the argument that any workmanship or embroidery made upon a length of cloth should by reason of some labour or money being spent over the cloth should deprive the cloth of its true and existing character. The plain words of the enactment do not permit any limitation upon the meaning of the term ' cloth' by reason of its being subject to any workmanship thereupon after the stage of weaving.
14. Mr. R. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, learned Counsel for the petitioner, next contended that silk choli-bits and sarees without any admixture of cotton do not fall within the meaning of ' cloth' as contained in Section 3(2) (i). This clause is in the following words:
Cloth (other than cloth woven on handlooms whether of silks, artificial silk, wool, flax, or any other material) which is not made wholly of cotton....
The argument is that the commodities described within the brackets namely, ' other than cloth woven on handlooms whether of silk, artificial silk, wool, flax or any other material' are outside the category of cloth, but what is subject to the enhanced levy of 8 per cent. is cloth not made Wholly of cotton, and that is cloth made partly of cotton and partly of other materials. Learned Counsel contended that a taxing enactment has got to be construed strictly in favour of the subject and against the State and that any construction by which silk choli-bits and sarees can be brought within the meaning of cloth would be violative of the proper rule of interpretation of taxing statutes.
15. A statute governs according to the plain meaning of its language and this is a settled canon of construction. A taxing enactment is no exception to this rule. Nor can it be said that it has a special code of interpretation. Under the English Law tax measures and revenue laws are classed and treated as penal laws to be strictly construed against the Crown but in America they are regarded as remedial in character intended to prevent fraud, suppress public wrong and promote public good and are construed so as most effectually to accomplish these objects. (Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, 10th Edn., page 292). But whatever be the approach to the interpretation of the statute no tax law can impose a burden on the subject without clear and express words prescribing the obligation. There is no scope for intendment, implication, or presumption regarding assessment of tax. The Court whose plain duty is only to interpret and apply the statute, and not to legislate, should not get bogged in the quick-sands of the policy of Legislature or the back ground of legislation. The only criterion is whether or not the words of the Act have reached the alleged subject of taxation. If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, after giving the words their plain grammatical meaning, that ought not to be construed to afford the subject means of evasion or avoidance of tax. If the answer is in the negative the subject goes free and the State cannot strain the language to give effect to their supposed intentions. In the words of Lord Cairns in Partington v. Attorney-General (1869) L.R. 4 H.L. 100 .
If the person sought to be taxed comes within the letter of the law he must be taxed, however great the hardship may appear to the judicial mind to be. On the other hand, if the Crown, seeking to recover the tax, cannot bring the subject within the letter of the law, the subject is free, however apparently within the spirit of the law the case might otherwise appear to be. In other words, if there be admissible, in any statute, what is called an equitable construction, certainly such a construction is not admissible in a taxing statute, where you can simply adhere to the words of the statute.
16. We do not agree with the contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioner that the enhanced levy under Clause (i) can only be in respect of cloth which is adulterated with cotton and other material. It seems to us that all cloth will be subject to the 8 per cent. levy except (i) cloth woven on handloom whether of silk, artificial silk, wool, flax or any other material and (ii) cloth which is wholly of cotton. Though the words ' which is not made wholly of cotton ' are placed outside the bracket they were intended to operate as exception from the category of cloth SO as not to attract the enhanced levy. The wording of the clause is neither elegant nor simple, but its true meaning is clear and unmistakable. The silk choli-bits and sarees do not fall within the exception provided for in Clause (i) and are therefore subject to the additional levy as prescribed under Section 3(2) of the Act.
17. The Revision Petition fails and is dismissed with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 100.