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Deputy Commercial Tax Officer, Triplicane Division, Mount Road, Madras and anr. Vs. Cosmopolitan Club Represented by the Honorary Secretary, P.M. Balasubramania Mudaliar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetters Patent Appeal No. 175 of 1952
Judge
Reported inAIR1954Mad1144
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 32 and 226; Madras General Sales Tax Act, 1939 - Sections 2 and 3; Companies Act - Sections 26
AppellantDeputy Commercial Tax Officer, Triplicane Division, Mount Road, Madras and anr.
RespondentCosmopolitan Club Represented by the Honorary Secretary, P.M. Balasubramania Mudaliar
Appellant AdvocateAsst. Govt. Pleader
Respondent AdvocateK.S. Jayarama Aiyar, ;C.K. Venkatanarasimham and ;T.A. Ramaswami Reddy, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredSatyavart Sidhantalankar v. Arya Samaj Bombay
Excerpt:
sales tax - transaction - articles 32 and 226 of constitution of india, sections 2 and 3 of madras general sales tax act, 1939 and section 26 of companies act - in case supply of refreshments by club to members does not amount to sale then transaction not subject to sales tax - in absence of profit motive present transaction not amount to sale - held, transaction not liable to sales tax. - balakrishna aiyab, j. 1. the cosmopolitan club, madras, la a social and recreational association with a strength of some twelve hundred members or more. it was founded in 1873. in 1934 it was incorporated under section 26 of the indian companies act, 1913. where people foregather there is often a demand for refreshments and the club supplies these at certain standard rates previously approved of. on the total amount of the bills in respect of the refreshments supplied to the members the state of madras has been charging sales tax under section 3 of the madras general sales-tax act, 1939. on 22nd august 1949 the secretary of the club wrote to the government requesting them to exempt the sale of refreshments by the club to its members from liability to pay sales tax. by an order dated.....
Judgment:

Balakrishna Aiyab, J.

1. The Cosmopolitan Club, Madras, la a social and recreational association with a strength of some twelve hundred members or more. It was founded in 1873. In 1934 it was incorporated under Section 26 of the Indian Companies Act, 1913. Where people foregather there is often a demand for refreshments and the Club supplies these at certain standard rates previously approved of. On the total amount of the bills in respect of the refreshments supplied to the members the State of Madras has been charging sales tax under Section 3 of the Madras General Sales-tax Act, 1939. On 22nd August 1949 the Secretary of the Club wrote to the Government requesting them to exempt the sale of refreshments by the Club to its members from liability to pay sales tax. By an order dated 21-9-1949 the Government negatived the request. In paragraph 10 of the affidavit filed by the Honorary Secretary of the Club it is stated:

'The amount till now paid by the club to the State of Madras is Rs. 10,198-3-11 and the petitioner submits that the levy of sales tax on the total value of the refreshments supplied to its members is 'ultra vires' and illegal and the State of Madras had no jurisdiction or power to levy such tax.'

2. In March 1951, the Club filed two petitions in this court. One, O.M.P. No. 3414 of 1951 (See : AIR1952Mad814 ) was for the issue of a writ in the nature of a writ of certiorari 'calling upon the respondent to Bend up therecords of their proceedings in O. o. Ms. No.2472, dated 21-9-1949, Revenue Department, Government of Madras in the matter of sales-tax on the supply of refreshments to the members by the petitioner and connected papers and quash the same as having been passedwithout jurisdiction.'

3. The other, C.M.P. No. 3415 of 1951 (See : AIR1952Mad814 ), was for the Issue of 'a writ of mandamus or other appropriate writ or order directing the respondents to forbear from levying and collecting the sales-tax on the value of refreshments supplied to the members by the petitioner.'

4. Mack J. who heard these petitions took the view that the supply of refreshments by the Club to its members did not constitute a sale within the meaning of the Act and that the levy of sales-tax based on the assumption that the transaction was a sale was illegal. He allowed the petition for the issue of a writ of mandamus to direct the Government to forbear from levying and collecting sales-tax on the value of refreshments supplied by the Club to its members. He dismissed the application for the issue of a writ of certiorari as it was not pressed.

5. In the appeal before us the State seeks to canvass the correctness of the view of Mack J. that sales-tax is not leviable on the value of the refreshments supplied by the Club to its members.

6. Before Mack J. the Government took the preliminary objection that the petitions were incompetent, and, that objection was repeated before us. This is how the learned Government Pleader explained his view, of the matter. The Sales-tax Act has set up a special hierarchy of tribunals at whose hands any person aggrieved by any levy made under the 'Act must seek redress. Under Section 11 any assessee objecting to an assessment made on him may appeal to the prescribed authority. Under Section 12 the Board of Revenue and certain other authorities have been empowered to revise the orders of any subordinate authority, either 'suo motu' or on application preferred within six months of the passing of the order complained. It has also been held, in --'The Province of Madras v. Satyanarayanamurthi' : AIR1952Mad273 , that a suit can be Instituted against the Government in respect of any levy made or purporting to be made under the Act. Therefore, the position is that the petitioning Club has an adequate alternative remedy both within the statute under which the levy was imposed and also outside it, and, In such a situation a petition for the issue of a writ does not lie.

7. In support of his argument he referred to the decisions in -- 'Adinarayana & Bros. v. State of Madras' : AIR1952Mad830 . 'Atni-moolam Achari v. Dy. Commercial Tax Officer' : AIR1953Mad10 'Syed Mohamed & Co. v. State of Madras' : AIR1953Mad105 and 'Govindarajulu Naidu & Co. v. State of Madras' : AIR1953Mad116 .

8. In the first of these four cases Subba Rao J. dismissed an application for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the orders of the Board of Revenue, affirming the assessment that had been made on the petitioner on the ground that he had an alternative remedy by way of a suit.

9. In the second case, also decided by Subba Rao J. he dismissed another application for the issue of a writ of prohibition directing the Government to forbear from assessing the petitioner to sales-tax on the ground that the Act Is a self-contained one and provides a hierarchy of tribunals to enable the aggrieved person or authority to get a final and authoritative adjudication on the validity or the correctness of the assessments made by the Sales-tax authorities. In view of the fact that an adequate remedy has been provided in the Act itself he dismissed the application for the issue of a writ.

10. The third case was decided by a Bench and it held Inter alia, 'where the assessees were duly served with notice under the Act and had ample opportunity of putting forward before the Tribunals all contentions based on the provisions of the Act or the Rules thereunder but did not avail themselves of it, they cannot be permitted to put forward in a writ petition questioning the validity of the Act or rules the contentions which were available to them before the Tribunals. The only pleas that will be open to them in the writ proceedings are those which could not have been urged before the Tribunals.'

11. The last decision was by the same Bench and to the same effect:

'The High Court could not entertain in proceedings by way of writ such objections to the assessment of the sales-tax as could have been urged before the Tribunals constituted under the Act.'

12. The argument of the learned Government Pleader was that whatever objection and contentions the Club had must have been urged before the Tribunals set up under the Act, and, the Club not having exhausted its remedies under the Act -- and also those outside it -- is not justified in invoking the jurisdiction of this court relating to writs.

13. On these contentions of the learned Government Pleader certain observations may properly be made.

1. At the time the Club filed the petitions out of which this appeal arises, the provisions in the Act for the investigation of complaints by assessees were not so elaborate as they are now. The Madras General Sales-tax (Amendment) Act, 1851 (Madras Act VI of 1951) made very important changes in the original Act of 1939 as subsequently amended. Section 12, as It stood in 1939, conferred powers of revision only on the Board of Revenue. In 1949 the scope of Section 12 was enlarged by conferring powers of revision on authorities besides the Board of Revenue. In 1951 Section 12 was replaced by a series of sections, viz., Ss. 12 to 12-D. Under Section 12 inserted by Act VI of 1951, powers of revision were conferred on Commercial Tax Officers, the Deputy Commissioners and the Board of Revenue. Section 12-A provided for a right of appeal to the Appellate Tribunal. Section 12-B vested the power of revision in the High Court. Section 12-C provided for a right of appeal to the High Court in certain cases. Section 12-D required that petitions, applications and appeals preferred to the High Court shall be heard by a Bench of not less than two Judges.

Now, Act VI of 1951 which inserted all these provisions received the assent of the President only on 15th April 1951 whereas the Club filed Its petitions in March 1951. The ampler and more elaborate machinery now available to a dissatisfied assessee did not therefore then exist.

2. As will be presently explained, one of the contentions of the Club is that the supply of refreshments by it to its members did not and could not constitute a sale at all and that to the extent that the Act sought to tax such transactions by calling them sales when they were not really such, the vires of the Act was to that extent open to question. The Club may properly have thought that the authorities set up under the Act would have declined to entertain such a line of reasoning.

3. The existence of an alternative remedy, even an adequate alternative remedy, does not oust the Jurisdiction of this court to issue a writ in appropriate cases.

14. 'Rex v. North; Ex parte Oakey', 1927 1 KB 491 (P), was a case in which the Vicar of a Parish was in his absence ordered by the Consistory Court to pay the expenses of repairing a fresco and the costs of the petition. The order was passed on 24-7-1925. On February 11, 1928 a monition was issued to him ordering him to pay the said amount under threat of sequestration. On March 9 the Vicar applied for a writ of prohibition. The petition was opposed on the ground inter alia that the Vicar could have appealed to the Court. The court held that the writ should issue. Bankers L. J, observed: 'But even if he had a right of appeal, in the case to which Atkin L. J. has referred me, -- 'White V. Steele', (1862) 12 OB (NS) 383 (Q), where the case was very similar to the present, the court definitely stated that in their opinion the fact that there was an appeal to the Court of Arches was no ground for refusing a writ of prohibition.' Atkin L. J. stated,

'But whether that is so or not I think it is quite plain that the fact of there being a emedy by way of appeal is no answer to a writ of prohibition, where the want of jurisdiction complained of is based upon the breach of a fundamental principle of justice, such as I conceive to have been the case here. There is plenty of authority for the proposition that in such cases prohibition will lie notwithstanding that there is a right of appeal.'

It is no doubt true that in the case before us there is no allegation that there has been a violation of any principle of natural Justice. But the decision cited is an authority for the proposition that the existence of an alternative remedy does not deprive the court of the power to act.

15. In 'Lakshmindra Theertha Swamiar v. Commr., Hindu Religious Endowments Madras' : AIR1952Mad613 , very much wider language is used.

'In deciding the question whether a writ of prohibition should issue or not, the existence of an alternative remedy is, in our opinion, an irrelevant consideration when the complaint is that an inferior tribunal is exceeding its jurisdiction or is assuming a jurisdiction not vested in it by law. If the tribunal is permitted to exercise that jurisdiction which is objected to, if it exercises it wrongly, the mischief would be done before the alternative remedy is availed of.'

16. In 'Rashid Ahmed v. Municipal Board, Kairana' : [1950]1SCR566 , the Supreme Court observed;

'There can be no question that the existence of an adequate legal remedy is a thing to be taken into consideration in the matter of granting writs, but the powers given to this Court under Article 32 are much wider and are not confined to issuing prerogative writs only.'

It is no doubt true that in -- 'Veerappa Pilial v. Baman and Raman Ltd.' : [1952]1SCR583 , the following passage appears: 'Thus we have before us a complete and precise scheme for regulating the issue of permits, providing what matters are to be taken into consideration as relevant, and prescribing appeals and revisions from subordinate bodies to higher authorities. The remedies for the redress of grievances or the correction of errors are found in the statute itself and it is to these remedies that resort must generally be had.' It will be noticed that the qualifying word used is 'generally' and not 'invariably'. There is a substantial difference between the two words. If the learned Judges had said 'invariably' that decision would have been clearly an authority for the view that a writ of the kind prayed for cannot be Issued. But, from the circumstance that the word 'generally' is used, one is entitled to conclude that the discretion of the court to act where an adequate alternative remedy exists is perhaps attenuated but not) extinguished.

17. In this connection reference may be usefully made to the observations of the learned Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the decision in -- 'Himatlal Harllal Mehta v. State of Madhya Pradesh' : [1954]1SCR1122 . The question for consideration before the Supreme Court related to the legality of the levy of sales-tax by the State of Madhya Pradesh and the Advocate General for the State who resisted the claim of the assessee raised among others an objection that the existence of the remedies by way of appeal and revision provided for in the Sales-tax Act of the State precluded the court from granting relief to the aggrieved assessee. Dealing with this preliminary objection, Mahajan C. J. stated:

'He (the Advocate General for the State) however contended that on the principle enunciated by the Privy Council in -- 'Raleigh Investment Co., Ltd. v. Governor-General in Council', AIR 1947 PC 78 (L), jurisdiction to question assessment otherwise than by use of the machinery expressly provided by the Act, was inconsistent with the statutory obligation to pay, arising by virtue of the assessment and that the liability to pay the sales-tax under the Act is a special liability created by the Act itself which at the same time gives a special and particular remedy which ought to be restored to, and therefore the remedy by a writ ought not to be allowed to be used for evading the provisions of the Act, especially a fiscal Act. It was also said that the conditions requisite for the issue of a writ of mandamus were not present in the case and that it was not within the scope and purpose of Article 226 of the Constitution to decide an academic question.

In our opinion, the contentions raised by the learned Advocate General are not well founded. It is plain that the State evinced an intention that it could certainly proceed to apply the penal provisions of the Act against the appellant if it failed to make the return or to meet the demand and in order to escape from such serious consequences threatened without authority of law, and infringing fundamental rights, relief by way of writ of mandamus was clearly the appropriate relief. In -- 'Mohamed Yasin v. Town Area Committee, Jalalabad' : [1952]1SCR572 it was held by this court that a licence fee on a business not only tabes away the property of the licensee but also operates as a restriction on his fundamental right to carry on his business and therefore if the imposition of a licence fee is without authority of law it can be challenged by way of an application under Article 32, 'a fortiori' also under Article 326.

These observations have apposite application to the circumstances of the present case. Explanation II to Section 2 (g) of the Act having been declared 'ultra vires', any imposition of sales-tax on the appellant in Madhya Pradesh is without the authority of law, and, that being so a threat by the State by using coercive machinery of the impugned Act to realise it from the appellant is a sufficient infringement of his fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) and it was clearly entitled to relief under Article 226 of the Constitution. The contention that because a remedy under the impugned Act was available to the appellant it was disentitled to relief under Article 226 stands negatived by the decision of this court in -- 'State of Bombay v. United Motors (India) Ltd.' : [1953]4SCR1069 above referred to. There it was held. that the principle that a court will not issue a prerogative writ when an adequate alternative remedy was available could not apply where a party came to the court with an allegation that his fundamental right had been infringed and sought relief under Article 226. Moreover, the remedy provided by the Act is of an onerous and burdensome character. Before the appellant can avail of it he has to deposit the whole amount of the tax. Such a provision can hardly be described as an adequate alternative remedy.'

In our opinion these observations clearly establish that this court has ample Jurisdiction to grant relief to the petitioner and that it Is a matter for the discretion of the court as to whether In any particular case it sees fit to grant the relief or relegates the party to his ordinary remedies by way of appeal or suit.

18. Reference may next be made to some of the relevant passages in volume 9 of Halsbury's Laws of England, Hailsham Edn. Pages 744 and: 745 contain the following passage: 'But that discretion must be governed by certain principles' (-- 'R. v. London Corporation', (1786) 1 Term Rep. 423 (O)'. )

'It is true that, in the past, the court has laid down certain rules for future guidance, according to which it will or will not grant this writ. It must, however, be remembered that it by no means follows that, because the court has In many cases refused to grant the writ, it had not power to do so within the rules which govern its action. The court may well have the power, but in a particular Case may think that it is not advisable to grant a writ of mandamus, which is discretionary.'

Paragraph 1396 on pages 819 and 820 reads as follows:

'With certain exceptions, the issue of the writ of prohibition, though not of course, is of right and not discretionary, & the superior court cannot refuse to enforce public order in the administration of the law by the denial of a grant of the writ; smallness of the matter in dispute and delay on the part of the applicant are not in themselves grounds for a refusal. The writ, however, cannot be claimed, as of rights unless the defect of jurisdiction is clear non will it, 'as a rule', be granted where an amendment in a plea will cure the alleged defect, nor where a specific remedy is given by a statute which in effect substitutes the statutory remedy for the remedy by prohibition.'

19. In paragraph 1432 it is stated in relationto the writ of certlorari:

'Its issue, except where application is made by the Attorney-General acting on behalf of the Crown, is discretionary; and the discretion of the court is exercised upon grounds established at common law.'

In paragraph 1479 are enumerated the cases where a writ of certiorari is granted as of course. In paragraph 1480 it is stated:

'In cases other than those which have been mentioned the writ is discretionary'.

Paragraph 1481 runs:

'Although the writ is not of course it will nevertheless be granted 'ex debito Justitlae', to quash proceedings which the court has to quash, where it is shown that the court below has acted without jurisdiction or in excess of, jurisdiction, if the application is made by an aggrieved party and not merely by one of the public and if 'the conduct of the party applying has not been such as to disentitle him to relief; and this is the case even though 'certiorari' is taken away by statute, and although there is an alternative remedy'.'

20. And then there is a foot note where it is stated;

'In cases where the writ is discretionary it may be refused on the ground that the applicant has another efficient remedy, e.g., a remedy by appeal.'

21. The correct position appears to be this where there is an alternative remedy and that remedy is adequate, this Court will ordinarily be very reluctant to interfere by the issue of a writ. The existence of such a remedy does not however deprive this Court of its jurisdiction to act. The existence of an adequate alternative' remedy would be a strong dissuading factor; nevertheless if after taking into account all the relevant circumstances this Court reaches the conclusion that the case Js an appropriate one in which the writ should go it has got authority to issue the writ.

22. One illustration may suffice. Section 107, Criminal Procedure Code enables certain classes of magistrates to take action against persons who are likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity. Under Section 117 (3), Criminal Procedure Code such magistrates can require the persons proceeded against to furnish interim bonds pending the conclusion of the enquiry, and, If they fail to do so they may be detained in custody. Now, if a person complains of an order made Under Section 117 (3), Criminal Procedure Code and comes to this court asking for the issue of a writ he would normally be told that a right of appeal exists under the Code of Criminal Procedure and that there is also a further right of revision and that he must exhaust these remedies before he seeks intervention of this court by the issue of a writ. That would be normally the case. But when steps are taken under Section 117 (3), Criminal Procedure Code on the eve of say an election, and, it is made manifest to this Court that these steps are being taken with a view to clip the wings of a particular political party or to break up its organisation we dare say the court will act by the issue of a proper writ and we have no doubt that it has jurisdiction to do so.

23. On this part of the case it may be finally, observed that the existence of an alternative remedy would not, where the prayer is for the issue of a writ of prohibition, be as strongly dissuasive as where the prayer is for the issue of a writ of certiorari since it avoids expense and waste of time.

(4) Finally, there is the fact that the discretion which inheres in this court has been exercised in a particular manner by the learned Judge from whose decision this appeal has been preferred; and, before we interfere in such a matter we would have to be clearly satisfied that the exercise of the discretion was clearly erroneous or improper. In paragraph 1362 of Halsbury's Laws of England, Vol. 9, Hailsham Edn., it is stated:

'The exercise of the discretion of the courts as to the grant of a mandamus may be the subject of appeal, but the court of appeal requires to be satisfied that such discretion has been wrongly exercised before it will overrule such a decision on appeal. 'The grant of a peremptory writ of mandamus is a determination of a right according to the merits of the case, and not the determination of a matter of discretion, and is subject to review as if it were a decision in an action.'

And we are not satisfied that Mack J. exercised the discretion he had either erroneously or improperly.

24. Coming to the merits of the matter. The contention on the part of the State is that the Club is a 'dealer' within the meaning of Section 3 of the Madras General Sales-tax Act. Section 2 (h) of the Act defines 'sale' in these terms:

''Sale'... .means every transfer of the property in goods by one person to another in the course of trade or business for cash or for deferred payment or other valuable consideration....' Section 2 (b) defines a 'dealer' as 'any person 'who carries on the business of buying or selling goods'.' (Underlined, here .in ' ' is ours.)

Then there is an explanation -- it is a little wrongly placed -- which reads as follows: 'A co-operative society, a club, a firm or any association which sells goods to its members is a dealer within the meaning of this clause.' It will be noticed that to constitute a sale within the meaning of the Act at least three ingredients are required.

1. There must be a transfer of property in goods.

2. The transfer must be in the course of trade or business.

3. And it must be for valuable consideration. In the absence of any one of these ingredients the transaction will not be a sale within the meaning of the Act.

25. Now, the expression 'in the course of trade or business' which is incorporated in the definition of 'sale' makes it plain that the transaction must be commercial in its nature, that is to say, the transaction must have its inception in a hope of profit, i.e,, with a profit motive. Of course it is not necessary that any profit should be actually realised. The transaction may well end in a loss. Nonetheless the transaction would be a sale provided, however, that it was put through as a part of or in pursuance of an enterprise which was set on foot in the hope of gain. Now the entire connotation of the word 'sale' is carried into the definition of a 'dealer' who is defined as a person 'who carries on the business of selling goods'. It will be noticed that in the definition of 'dealer' also the words 'carries on the business of buying or selling goods' are used. The words underline the fact that the transaction must be commercial in its nature. This is apparent on the language of the statute itself.

26. Authority too is not lacking. In -- 'Graham v. Lewis', (1888) 22 Q B D 1 (P) where the question related to the proper interpretation of the expression 'dwell or carry on business' in Section 13 of the Mayor's Court Act, 1857, Fry L, J., made some observations which have been quoted time and again as to the meaning of 'carrying on business'.

'Now, I think that the expression 'carry on business' is not ordinarily used in the sense of a person being busy or doing business merely. A butler employed to look after his master's plate and perform the other duties of his occupation may be a very busy man, but he could not be said to be carrying on business. A man who busies himself about science, the volunteer movement, or politics, though he may have a great deal of business to transact in respect of those matters, does not carry on business. I think that the expression has a narrower meaning than that of doing business or having business to do. In my opinion it imports that the person has control and direction with respect to a business, and also that it is a business, carried on for some pecuniary gain.'

27. There is a further discussion of the subject in the -- 'Inland Revenue Commrs. v. Eccentric Club Ltd.', 1924 1 KB 390 (Q). Of the three cases dealt with in that Judgment, that which is relevant to the present purpose is that of 'Inland Revenue Commrs. v. Eccentric Club Ltd. (Q)'. The facts there were as follows: A company limited by guarantee was formed for the purpose of carrying on the Eccentric Club. The members of the Club were to be the subscribers to the memorandum of association and such other persons as might apply for admission and be admitted as members. An applicant could not become a member of the company Unless he had been first of all chosen to be a member of the club, but, if he was elected to be a member of the club he was required to be a member of the company. The business of the company was to carry on the club and any profits had to be devoted to the advancement of the objects of the Club. The company was assessed to Corporation profits tax on the amount of its profit on the footing that these were 'the profits of a company carrying on trade or business' within Section 52 of the Finance Act, 1920.

It was argued on behalf of the Crown that the company was carrying on the business of the Club while the contention on behalf of the Club was that although in form it was a company it did not carry on any trade or business on any just appreciation of those terms, that the object of the company was not the carrying on of a business but the promoting of social intercourse, and, that the Club and the company did not seek to gain, nor did their activities result in profits. Pollock M. R. observed:

'It seems a somewhat far-fetched interpretation of the relevant section of the Act to hold that the association and activities of the memberg of the Club connote the carrying on of business. In my judgment the company was the structure only, it did not carry on a trade or business in the sense intended by Section 52, Sub-sections (2). (a), so as to impose a liability to corporation profits tax. The facts of this case are special and peculiar, and while as a general rule in cases of a company registered with the appendix 'limited' there would be a strong presumption that it was intended to, and did carry on a trade or business yet, in my judgment, that presumption can be rebutted, and is so, where the facts are such, as in this case, as to negative both the aim and the prospect o gam.'

Warrington L. J. was also of the same view:

'The learned Judge has held that the company is carrying on an undertaking similar to the trade or business of a club proprietor. With all respect, I should have thought that if its profits could be charged with the tax at all It would be because the company, regarded, as In law it is, as a separate entity or persona, is carrying on the actual trade or business of a club proprietor. But can this properly be said of it? The club proprietor, whether an individual or a company, carries on a business with a view to profit as an ordinary commercial concern. This the present company certainly does not do. I think the proper mode of regarding the company in the present case is as a convenient instrument for enabling the members to conduct a social club, the objects of which are immune from every taint of com-merciality, the transactions of sale and purchase being merely incidental to the attainment of the main object. What is in fact being carried on, putting technicalities aside, is a members' club and not a proprietary club, nor any undertaking of a similar character.'

Sargant L. J. was also of the same view. At page 430 he observed:

'On the same principle it seems to me that the present case stands as a question of substance on the same footing as if no Incorporated company had been interposed between those who are mutually providing and receiving social amenities, and accordingly, that this process of providing these amenities cannot be considered the carrying on of a trade or business any more than the provision in that case of mutual insurance.'

The exposition of the law by the learned Judges in the two cases Just referred to would become clearer when by way of contrast we read the decisions in -- 'Cornish Mutual Assurance Co. V. Inland Revenue Commrs.', 1926 AC 281 (R) and -- 'English and Scottish Joint Co-operative Whole Sale Society Ltd. v. Commrs. of Agricultural Income-tax, Assam' . These last two decisions make it clear that by merely juggling with the structure of the organisation a concern whose primary object is profit cannot get outside the net of the taxing laws.

28. There are two decisions of our own court which are germane here but have not yet been reported, viz., -- 'Gannan Dunkerley & Co. v. State of Madras', AIR 1954 Mad 1130 (T) and -- T. R. C. Nos. 46 & 211 Of 1953 (Mad) (U)'. In the first of these cases the learned Judges had to consider among others the question whether the assessees were liable to pay sales-tax on the value of the foodgrains which they supplied to their workmen, and, they held:

'Prom a review of these authorities, it seems to us clear that the word 'busiriess' employed in the definition of 'dealer' in the Madras General Sales-tax Act is used in the sense of buying or selling goods with a view to earn profit.'

This decision was applied in the two T. R. cases referred to above and the learned Judges held that a canteen maintained by an employer under Section 46 of the Factories Act where foodstuffs were sold on a non-profit basis cannot be subjected to sales-tax.

29. The next question is whether the explanation we have set out above to the definition of a 'dealer' makes a members' club a dealer and a sale by it to its members a transaction falling within the definition of 'sale' in the Act so as to render it liable to be charged with duty under the statute. We are clearly of the opinion that the function of the explanation was not to effect a fundamental change in the character of the transaction which would be the subject of tax. In the first place it has to be noticed that the explanation itself uses the expression 'sales' which has a statutory definition confining it to sales In the course of business, i.e., those which involve a profit motive. Secondly, it is possible to read the explanation as applying to institutions of the type set out therein, which have a profit motive. For, in the case, say of a proprietary club,, as distinguished from a members' club, it is possible that the proprietor seeks to make a profit by affording social amenities to those resorting to the club. Possibly the explanation was added merely to include occasional or even casual transactions by the institutions and persons set out therein and to repel In advance any argument that unless there is a continuous series of sales the association dealt with in the explanation would not be liable to pay tax. The question as to whether the explanation was designed to rebut an argument that no sale was involved when the goods belonging to a partner are transferred to him, i.e., to cover cases of release, will be considered later. It is not necessary to define all the situations to which the explanation would apply or its exact scope, but it is sufficient to state that in any event we are clearly of the opinion that the ex-planation is not sufficient or apt to impose tax liability on transactions of sale unattended with profit motive.

30. Mr. Veeraswami, the learned Government Pleader, argued that the word 'sale' is used in the explanation in a sense different from that given in the definition of the word. No doubt the opening words of Section 2 of the Act contian the saving expression:

'Unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context......'

but, these words of routine caution are not sufficient to justify the assumption that the word 'sale' Is used in the explanation in a sense different from that given in the definition of the word itself. Mr. Veeraswami suggested that it the meaning given to the definition of the word 'sale' in Section 2 (h) is carried into this explanation, that explanation would be futile. We do not think so because it is perfectly possible for co-operative society or a club or firm to sell goods with a view to obtain a profit. Even amongst clubs the distinction between proprietary clubs which seek to make a profit for the benefit of the proprietor, whether the proprietor be a private individual or a limited company, and members' clubs where there is no striving after profits, is well known. One would have thought that if the legislature intended that the word 'sale' occurring in the explanation should be understood differently from the meaning given in the definition that intention would have been made clear by the addition of the requisite words.

31. After an examination of the language of the statute and the authorities we are clear in our minds that only commercial activities whose goal is profit whether that goal be reached or not are caught by the definition.

32. A perusal of the memorandum and articles of association of the Club places it beyond doubt that the club is not a profit-making concern. Paragraph 3 (e) of the memorandum of association of the club shows that the purchase of the various items of property, moveable and immoveable, referred to in it are to be for the entertainment and convenience and accommodation of the members of the Club and that the same are to be disposed of only if they are superfluous, absolute or otherwise not required for the members of the club.

33. Rule 4 specifically stipulates that no property of the Club shall be paid or transferred, directly or indirectly, by way of dividend, bonus or otherwise to the members of the club.

34. Rule 56 makes it clear that no money mar be borrowed except among the members themselves.

35. Rule 84 runs:

'Supplies of any kind will not be furnished to any member, except for consumption in the Club except in the case of surplus stock sold by order of the Committee.'

36. The Club being an association not designed for making a profit nor striving after profit, there being no intention to make a profit by or out of the sale of refreshments to members, and there being no taint of commerciality in the transaction, the turnover in respect of the sales in question cannot in our view be assessed to sales-tax,

37. Mr. Jayarama Alyar, the learned advocate for the Club, went one step further and argued that the supply of refreshments by the Club to its members did not constitute a sale at all. He cited the case of -- 'Graff v. Evans', (1882) 8 QB D 373 (V), in which a manager of a bona fide club was prosecuted for selling by retail intoxicating liquors without a license under the licensing Act, 1872. The learned Judges held that there had been no sale at all in the case. According to them when the manager, Graft supplied liquor to a member he was only doing so to one who was entitled to obtain the goods on payment of the price fixed, and, there was no transfer either of the general or absolute property in the goods but only a transfer of a special interest. 'That decision was followed in -- 'Metford v. Edwards', 1915 1 KB 172 (W).

The facts there were these. In 1911, a club was newly registered with the clerk of the justices in accordance with the Licensing Act, 1910. In the course of the same year the club was also registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societiesunder the Friendly Societies Act, 1896. On 5th October 1912 the club was entered by the police At that time sixteen persons in a room of the club were provided, with intoxicating liquor. The appellant and his wife were standing behind he bar serving intoxicating liquor to those who were on the premises and receiving money in exchange therefor. There was no evidence whether any sale was made to non-members of the club. The question that the court was called upon to decide was whether there had been a sale by retail of Intoxicating liquors within the meaning of Section 65 of the Licensing Act, 1910. Banker J. observed at p. 179:

'If the liquor was the property of the club the selling complained of was a transfer by an officer of the club to the members. There is no finding of any supply to non-members. The only question then is whether such a transfer is a sale within the meaning of Section 65. In my opinion it is not. It is merely a distribution of the liquor among the members or a supply of the liquor to the members of the club such as is contemplated in Section 91. If so it is not a sale within Section 65. Section 91, Sub-sections 1 speaks of liquor transferred to or distributed among the members of a club as 'supplied' to the members. Sub-section 2 provides that the registration of the club is not to authorise any 'sale' which would otherwise be Illegal. There-fore if a sale as distinguished from a supply of Intoxicating liquor takes place on the premises of a club no matter how genuine, old established, or well conducted, that transaction is not protected by the mere registration of the club. In my view what took place in the present case was a supply and not a sale of intoxicating liquor, and the magistrate was wrong in coming to the conclusion stated in paragraph 2 of the last case that the transaction constituted a sale and that the registration of the club afforded, no protection to the appellants against the provisions of the Licensing (Consolidation) Act, 1910. Nothing I have said would affect the case where there is no real association of persons owning the liquor.'

Lush J. was of the same view, (at page 181):

'In my opinion there was no sale within the meaning of Section 65. If this had been a bona fide club, it is clear that no sale could have been proved, because '(1882) 8 Q B D 373 (V)' decided that where the members of a bona fide club are the owners of the liquor consumed, which is merely distributed among them that distribution is not a sale. The same result seems to me to follow where the club is not a bona fide club.... In my opinion that which was established in '(1882) 8 Q B D 373 (V)' in the case of a bona fide club is equally true in the case of a club which is not bona fide, and when it was found that the liquor consumed by the members was the general property of the club the magistrate ought to have dismissed the summonses. I agree, therefore, that the appeal must be allowed.'

38. According to these English decisions the circumstance that the club is incorporated makes no difference to the question on hand. See --'Trebanog Working Men's Club and Institute Ltd. v. Macdonald'; 'Monkwearmouth Conservative .Club Ltd. v. Smith', 1940 1 KB 576 (X). The facts there were these. Two members' clubs were incorporated under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts and the Companies Acts respectively, the share holders and the members in each case being identical. They purchased intoxicating liquor and supplied it from time to time to individual members for payment as in an ordinary club. It was held that the incorporated societies were legal entities as distinct from the members, and could therefore act as their agents or trustees, the real interest in the liquor being in the members, so that the societies did not require to be licensed. Lord Hewart C. J. stated at p. 582:

'In our opinion, the decision in '(1882) 8 Q B D 373 (V)' applies to and governs the present case. Once it is conceded that a members' club does not necessarily require a licence to serve its members with Intoxicating liquor, because the legal property in the liquor is not in the members themselves, it is difficult to draw any legal distinction between the various legal entitles that may be entrusted with the duty of holding the property on behalf of the members, be it an individual, or a body of trustees, or a company formed for the purpose, so long as the real Interest in the liquors remains, as in this case it clearly does, in the members of the club. There is no magic in this connection in the expressions 'trustee' or 'agent'. What is essential is that the holding of the property by the agent or trustee must be a holding for and on behalf of, and not a holding antagonistic to, the members of the club. We are dealing here with a quasi-criminal case, where the court seeks to deal with the Sub-stance of a transaction rather tnan the legal form in which it may be clothed.'

39. In this connection reference may be made to volume 6 of the third edition of Halsbury's Laws of England. In paragraph 657 is stated:

'Members' Club; The provisions of the Licensing Act, 1953, concerning sale have, save as previously indicated, little application to Dona fide members' clubs in which intoxicating liquor is supplied to members only, whether for consumption on or off the club premises. The members being the joint owners of all the club property, including the excisable liquor, the supply of the liquor to a member at a fixed price is not a sale within the meaning of the Act, but a transaction in the nature of a release by the other members of their shares in the property. If intoxicating liquor is in fact that property of the members of a registered club, the fact that the club is not conducted in good faith as a club and is consequently liable to be struck off the register does not make a distribution of the liquor among the members in return for payment a sale within the meaning of the Act.' The summary of the law given in paragraphs 659 and 660 may also be noticed: '659. Proprietary clubs: Proprietary clubs stand on a different footing. The members not being the owners of nor interested in the property of the club, the supply to them of food or liquor, though at a fixed tariff, is a sale; and accordingly, if intoxicating liquor is supplied, the premises must be duly licensed.' 660. Incorporated clubs: With regard to incorporated clubs, a distinction must be drawn, in order to reconcile the authorities. Where such a club has all the characteristics of a members' club consistent with its incorporation, that is to say, where every member is a share-holder, and every shareholder a member, it would appear that no licence need be taken out if liquor is supplied only to members. If some of the share-holders are not members, or some of the members are not share-holders, though most of them may be, a license is required for the sale of intoxicants, as In the case of an ordinary proprietary club.'

40. Mr. Veeraswami, the learned Government Pleader argued that whatever one may say in respect of the rule that the supply of refreshments by an unincorporated club to its members is not a sale there is no justification for extending that rule to the case of incorporated clubs. He argued that by the process of incorporation new juristic person is brought into existence and that this juristic person is different from every one of the members constituting the club. He cited the case of -- 'Farrar v. Farrars Ltd.', (1838) 40 Ch D 395 (Y), in which Lindley L. J. stated (at page 400):

'A sale by a person to a corporation of which he is a member is not, either in form or in substance, a sale by a person to himself. To hold that it is, would be to ignore the principle which lies at the root of the legal idea of a corporate body, and that idea is that the corporate body is distinct from the persons composing it. A sale by a member of a corporation to the corporation itself is in every sense a sale, valid in equity as well as at law.'

He also cited -- 'Satyavart Sidhantalankar v. Arya Samaj Bombay', : AIR1946Bom516 (Z), where it was held:

'Once a Society is registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies by the filing of the memorandum and certified copy of the rules and regulations thereof with the Registrar and the Registrar has certified under his hand that the society is registered under the Act, the society enjoys the status of a legal entity apart from its members constituting the same and is capable of suing or being sued.' (41) We recoginse that there is some force in, the criticism of the learned Government Pleader that a measure of inconsistency is Involved in saying at the same time, first that by reason of its incorporation a club acquires a new juristic personality and next that a transfer of the property vested in this Juristic personality to the individual members composing it for a price does not constitute a sale. But, on the other hand, we have to take note of the fact that these decisions of the English courts have remained in force for several years. Lord Hewart C. J. in '1940 1 KB 576 (X)' quotes the following passage from James L. J. in 'Ex parte Campbell', (1870) 5 Ch App 703:

'When once certain words in an Act of Parliament have received a judicial construction In one of the superior courts, and the legislature has repeated them without any alteration in a subsequent statute, I conceive that the Legislature must be taken to have used them according to the meaning which a court of competent Jurisdiction has given to them.' We also notice that in 'AIR 1954 Mad 1130 (T)', Satyanarayana Rao and Rajagopalan JJ, have observed:

'It therefore follows that the building contracts, which the assessees entered into during the assessment year, on which the turnover was calculated, do not involve any element of sale of the materials and are not In any sense contracts for the sale of goods as understood in law......If the amendments introduced in 1947 by the Provincial Legislature are intended to eaten in the net of tax contracts of the nature with which we are concerned, we should hold that to that extent the amendments introduced are ultra vires of the Provincial Legislature as they had no power to tax transactions, which are not sales of goods.'

It will be appreciated that these remarks would apply to the case on hand if it be held that the supply of refreshments by the club to the members does not amount to a sale in law. However, we do not now finally decide the question whether the supply of refreshments by a non-proprietary incorporated club to its members amounts to a sale or not. We have merely indicated some of the aspects of the matter into which it may become necessary to go more fully on a later occasion. We refrain from giving a decision here and now on this matter in view of our conclusion that in the absence of a profit motive a transaction would not be a sale as that word is defined in the Act.

42. In the result, the appeal is dismissed.

43. Mr. Jayarama Aiyar stated that he argued the case as a member of the Club. There will be therefore no order as regards costs.


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