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Saroja Mills Ltd., Through Its Director, Proprietor, Thiagarayan Mills Vs. Uchapatti Panchayat Board by Its President - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectOther Taxes
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1969)2MLJ426
AppellantSaroja Mills Ltd., Through Its Director, Proprietor, Thiagarayan Mills
RespondentUchapatti Panchayat Board by Its President
Cases ReferredIn Skinner & Co. v. Shew
Excerpt:
- .....for the manufacture of goods including the necessary buildings and machinery.4. the origin of the word factory is from the latin factor, a doer or maker.5. the word ' workshop ' means ' a shop or building where work is done '. the word ' shop ' besides meaning places where goods are sold at retail also means ' a building or room in which workmen carry on their trades or occupation '--? vide the same dictionary. the oxford dictionary gives as a meaning for ' work shop ' a factory '.6. the act under consideration itself does not define a factory or workshop and excludes one from the concept of the other, for us to exclude factory front the concept of workshop found in the definition of 'house'. the fact that the premises in question would be a 'factory' under certain special acts should.....
Judgment:

M. Natesan, J.

1. The short question for consideration in this second appeal is whether the appellant's building housing a spinning mills within the limits of Uchapatti Panchayat Board, Tirumangalam taluk, is liable for house-tax under the Madras Panchayats Act XXXV of 1958. The suit has been instituted by the appellant, Saroja Mills, Limited, Coimbatore, for a declaration that the defendant Panchayat Board, the respondent herein had no right to levy house-tax on the mills owned by it, as it is a factory and not a house. Refund of Rs. 1,031-25 has been prayed for as tax illegally collected. The learned Subordinate Judge of Madurai and on appeal the learned District Judge of Madurai, having due regard to the principles governing interpretation of taxation provisions upheld the validity of the levy. The only basis on which the levy is sought to be invalidated is that the spinning mill is a factory, which would fall under the definition of 'factory' in statutes providing for the establishment, regulation and control of factories and that the Panchayats Act does not authorise levying house-tax on a factory.

2. The relevant charging sections under the Act are Sections 119 and 120 found in Chapter IV of the Act under the heading 'Taxes and Finance.' The material parts of the sections are:

Section 119. Taxes leviable by panchayats.--(1) Every village panchayat shall levy in the village and every town panchayat shall levy in the town a house-tax, a profession-tax and a vehicle tax.

Section 120. House-tax.--(1) The house-tax shall be levied on all houses in every village and town on the basis on which such tax was levied in the local area concerned immediately before the commencement of this Act:

Provided that the Government may by Rules prescribe that the tax shall be levied on the basis of classified plinth area or on the basis of annual rent value or capital value or on a combination of any two or more of the above basis.

(2) *****

(3) *****

(4) The Government may make Rules providing for (i) the manner of ascertaining the annual or capital value of house or the categories into which they fall for the purposes of taxation;

(ii) the persons who shall be liable to pay the tax and the giving of notices of transfer of houses;

(iii) the grant of vacancy and other remissions;

(iv) the circumstances in which and the conditions subject to which, houses constructed, re-constructed or demolished, or situated in areas included in, or excluded from the village or town, during any year, shall be liable or cease to be liable to the whole or any portion of the tax.

* * * * *

The aforesaid provisions make houses within the panchayat village or town liable for tax. The definition of 'house' is found in the Act itself in Section 2 (13). According to Section 2 (13) 'house' means a building fit for human occupation, whether as a residence or otherwise, having a separate principal entrance from the common way, and includes any shop, workshop or warehouse or any building used for garaging or parking buses or as a bus stand. This definition immediately takes us to the definition of 'building' in Section 2 (1). The definition of 'building' has wide connotation and it is sufficient for our purpose to state that 'building' includes a house and out-house. The argument for the appellant is that while the definition of 'house' is made to include a shop and a workshop, there is no mention of a factory. It is pointed out that the Act itself shows that the Legislature was perfectly aware of the special features of a factory. Section 112 of the Act required permission to be taken for construction of factories and installation of machinery. Section 112 provides that no person shall, without the permission of the Panchayat Union Council in panchayat villages and town panchayat in a panchayat town and except in accordance with the conditions specified in the permission, construct or establish any factory, workshop or work-place in which it is proposed to employ steam power, water power or other mechanical power or other electrical power. Learned Counsel for the appellant submits that whereas the definition of 'house' includes only workshop, and not factory belonging to the same genus, 'factory' is excluded impliedly. In my view, Section 112 of the Act cannot control the definition of 'house' in Section 2 (13) of the Act. The fact that 'factory', 'workshop' or 'work-place' are severally referred to in Section 112, when making it a requirement that permission must be taken for their establishment or construction, does not mean that if a factory or work-place otherwise falls within the definition of 'house' it must be deemed to be excluded from the definition for the reason that of these workshop alone is included in the definition of 'house' and not factory and work-place. Factory, workshop or work-place form a category and appear to have been set out severally in Section 112 to be comprehensive in their coverage. The essential distinction to be noticed is, that Section 112 deals with the use to which the place or premises is put to and the taxing section is not concerned with the user. The basis of taxation of a house is not the manner in which it is used. Tax is levied either on the basis of classified plinth area or annual rent value or capital value or on a combination of any two or more of the above bases. The actual use to which a house may be put to does not come in for consideration in assessing the levy. In the field of taxation, the question of user of the premises comes in only under the provision for grant of vacancy remission. But there also, it is not the nature or character of the user but whether in fact it was used or not, that falls for consideration.

3. Webster's Twentieth Century Dictionary defines factory inter alia thus:

An establishment for the manufacture of goods including the necessary buildings and machinery.

4. The origin of the word factory is from the Latin factor, a doer or maker.

5. The word ' workshop ' means ' a shop or building where work is done '. The word ' shop ' besides meaning places where goods are sold at retail also means ' a building or room in which workmen carry on their trades or occupation '--? Vide the same Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionary gives as a meaning for ' work shop ' a factory '.

6. The Act under consideration itself does not define a factory or workshop and excludes one from the concept of the other, for us to exclude factory front the concept of workshop found in the definition of 'house'. The fact that the premises in question would be a 'factory' under certain special Acts should not be brought in here, to exclude it from the definition of 'house' given in a general and comprehensive manner. If the structure in question falls within the definition of a house, it does not cease to be so because it is a factory for certain purposes.

7. We are here concerned only with the concept of the word 'house' in the definition Section 2 (13) of the Act and whether it takes in a building in which a factory has been established. We have to interpret the definition of house, having regard to the context in which it appears. The popular or natural meaning of the word, 'house' is, 'dwelling place, a building for human beings to live in'. But the expression has also a wider meaning. Among the several meanings of the word 'house' found in Webster's Dictionary the following may be referred to ::

(a) a building for human beings to live in, specifically a building or part of a building occupied by one family or tenant; dwelling place;

(b) a college or university;

(c) Inn, tavern, hotel;

(d) a building where a group of people live as a unit; as a fraternity house;

(e) a monastery; nunnery or similar religious establishments;

(4) Something regarded as a house; place that provides shelter, living place, etc;

a building where things are kept, when not in use;

as a garage house;

a theatre.

a place of business; a business firm, commercial establishment;

a church, temple or synagogue.

8. Learned Counsel for the appellant submits that a subject ought not to be taxed unless the taxing provision unambiguously applies to the situation. It is submitted that express language is indispensable, when imposing a tax or a charge and here it is doubtful if the Legislature intended charging a factory. When it is doubtful, the doubt should be resolved in favour of the subject. There is no doubt about the principles of interpretation. As found in Canadian Eagle Oil Co., Ltd. v. The King L.R. (1946) A.C. 114:

in a taxing Act, one has to look at what is clearly said. There is no room for any intendment. There is no equity about a tax. There is no presumption as to a tax. Nothing is to be read in, nothing is to be implied. One can only look fairly at the language used.

9. As contended for the appellant, the tax-payer has a right to stand upon the literal construction of the words used, whatever might be the consequences, and it is not the function of the Court to give to words a strained or unnatural meaning because only thus could a taxing section be applied to a transaction, which, had the Legislature thought of it, would have been covered by approrpriate words. If within the letter of the law the subject is liable, he must be taxed however great the hardship may appear to the Court. If he does not come within the letter of the law, he is not liable whatever presumed intendment of the law may be. Now, when we examine the provisions of the Act in the light of the above principles, clearly the appellant cannot escape taxation.

10. The appellant seeks to avoid liability on the sole ground that the building is a factory. He does not say that the building is not fit for human occupation. The word, 'occupation' does not necessarily mean 'occupation by actual dwelling or residence.' The definition makes the position clear by pointing out that occupation may be as residence or otherwise. It may be used for the purpose of dwelling or it may be used for other purposes. The fact that the user of the building for certain other purposes may make it a factory and that for such user prior permission of the Panchayat Union may be necessary does not make it the less a house. Learned Counsel contends that the phrase as a ''residence or otherwise' must be read as limiting the scope of the expression ' occupation'. It is submitted that the word, 'otherwise' must be read ejusdem generis with residence and running a factory in the building could not be considered as similar to having residence in the premises. But the ejusdem' generis principle can have no application in the context. First, there is no category and there is mention only of a single species. 'Residence' by itself cannot constitute a genus in the context. Secondly, the expression, ' or otherwise' is a phrase of extension here and not limitation; it is added after residence lest the expression 'human occupation,' with reference to the expression 'house' should be limited to the popular user of the expression in the context, ' occupation for residential purposes.' The definition expressly expands and brings out that the widest amplitude of the word is intended. The word 'occupation,' the defintion says, should be read in its widest sense and not restricted to occupation for residence only. In National Association of Local Government Officers v. Bolton Corporation L.R. (1943) A.C. 166, Lord Simon, L.C. referred to a definition of 'workman' as any person who has entered into a work under a contract with an employer whether the contract be by way of manual labour, clerical work 'or otherwise' and said:

The use of the words ' or otherwise ' does not bring into play ejusdem generis principle, for ' manual labour ' and ' clerial work ' do not belong to a single limited genus.

11. I may usefully refer to the following from Craies on Statute Law, sixth edition, at page 181:

For instance, where a local Act required that theatres and other places of public entertainment should be licensed, the question arose whether a 'fun-fair' for which no fee was charged for admission was within the Act. It was held to be so, and that ejusdem generis rule did not apply to confine the words ' other places' to places of the same kind as theatres.

12. In Skinner & Co. v. Shew & Co. (1893) 1 Ch. 413, the words, 'or otherwise' in relation to threats of legal proceedings by circulars, advertisements or otherwise were held as extending the previous words so as absolutely to prohibit any threats whatever of legal proceedings.

13. The Act gives the most comprehensive definition of the word ''house' by including in the definition,

any shop, workshop or warehouse and even place used for garaging or parking buses or a bus stand.

The ambit of the word ' house' is expanded. The phrase 'and includes' has always been understood as a phrase of extension of the definition and not one of restriction of the definition. Lest the popular meaning of the word, 'house' should keep out places fit for human occupation which are used as workshops or warehouses or for garaging or for parking buses, the definition includes places used for these purposes also. The use of the word ' shop, workshop or warehouse' clearly indicate that a factory which could be considered as a workshop would be covered by the definition. There might have been some doubts, if the definition had stopped after 'or otherwise positing only the requirement of a separate principal entrance from the common way. The inclusive part of the definition of the word ' house' shows that every conceivable occupation of the building is contemplated and not excluded from its definition. The exemption provisions under the Rules statutorily framed also indicate the coverage of the expression ' house.' Places which fall within the definition of '' house' under the Act, when they are set apart for public worship, places which are choulteries for the occupation for which no rent is charged, places used for educational purposes including hostels which are open to public, places used for charitable purposes of sheltering the destitute or animals are exempt from house-tax. Also charitable hospitals and light houses are exempt. Of course, if rent is paid for a building used as a place of public worship or for educational purposes or hostels and libraries or for charitable hospitals, these buildings are not exempt from taxation. Learned Counsel submits that the exemption is applicable only when the places in question fall within the definition of ' house' under the Act. But to be a house under the Act, apart from its being fit for human habitation, it must have a separate principal entrance from the common way. The Rules have been framed under the very same Section 120, and here they assist in the interpretation of the definition ' house' in Section 2 (13) of the Act. It is clear that '-'house' as defined in Section 2 (13) includes both a residential building and a non-residential building. A factory is a building under non-residential occupation. It follows that if a building satisfies the other requirements of Section 2 (13), even its user for the non-residential purpose of running a factory would not take it out of the definition of ' house'. If the building is otherwise subject to houses-tax, the establishment of a factory or the fact that the building is constructed for the purpose of a factory will not make the levy illegal. The conclusion in the circumstance is inevitable that the only basis on which the levy of house-tax is sought to be invalidated fails.

14. In the result, the second appeal is dismissed with costs. No leave.


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