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Dabur (Dr. S.K. Burman) Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Commercial Tax Officer and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case Number C.R. No. 220(W) of 1963
Reported in[1967]19STC447(Cal)
AppellantDabur (Dr. S.K. Burman) Pvt. Ltd.
RespondentCommercial Tax Officer and ors.
Appellant Advocate Nani Coomar Chakravarty, ;Nepal Chandra Sen and ; Ajit Bakshi, Advs.
Respondent Advocate B.C. Dutt, Adv.
Cases Referred(Bhopal Sugar Industries v. Dube
- .....the act as goods purchased by the petitioner 'for use by him in the manufacture in west bengal of goods for sale' or as 'other material for the packing of goods of the class or classes so specified'.i. the first question arises in this way :sub-section (1) of section 7 of the act lays down that nobody can carry on business as a 'dealer' unless he possesses a registration certificate, to obtain which he has to make an application under sub-section (2), and sub-section (3) empowers the prescribed authority to grant a certificate if he is satisfied that 'it is in order'.sub-section (4) provides for amendment of a certificate after it had been duly granted under sub-section (3). it says :the commissioner may from time to time amend any certificate of registration in accordance with.....

D. Basu, J.

1. This Rule is directed against the orders at annexures 'G' and 'H' to the petition, dated 13th July, 1962, and 31st January, 1963, respectively.

2. The petitioner-firm carries on the business of manufacturing patent and proprietary medicines, toilet goods etc. for sale and is a registered dealer under the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') and holds the Registration Certificate No. BH/50 which was issued to it on 20th September, 1941 (annexure 'A'). In this certificate, its business is described as 'manufacturing wholesale and retail', and as to exemption from sales tax, it is stated:

Sales of the following goods to this dealer will be free of tax-

(a) For purposes of manufacture:

Chemicals, roots, herbs, paper, ink and(1) any other materials;(2) plant, machinery, spare Certified by the purchasing dealer parts, accessories and to be required for use in any consumable stores; process in the manufacture of(3) building or plumbing finished patent and proprietary materials or fixtures medicines, toilet, ayurvedic and required for construction, pharmaceutical preparationsfitting out or repair of any for sale.building.

3. The petitioner's case is that on the strength of the above exemption clause in the certificate, the petitioner used to purchase, free of tax, 'paper and ink' necessary for the printing of its cartons, labels and directions etc. which are necessary for the marketing and sale of the finished products manufactured by it and that the price upon which sales tax is realised from it is inclusive of the cost of making the cartons, labels etc. It is added that the petitioner has its own printing press for the printing of the said materials.

4. The petitioner's trouble started from a letter addressed by it on 18th November, 1960 (annexure 'B') to the Commercial Tax Officer, Bhowanipore Charge, seeking a, clarification as to whether, on the strength of the exemption clause in the registration certificate, the petitioner was entitled to purchase, tax-free, the types required in its printing press for printing the cartons, labels etc. for offering its finished products for sale. By his reply (Memo. No. 9544) dated 12th December, 1960, the Commercial Tax Officer stated :-

Ref. your letter dated 16th November, 1960. Purchase of types for printing such papers only as are used in packing of the goods sold can be made tax-free on the strength of your registration.

5. On 22nd August, 1961, however, respondent No. 1, the Commercial Tax Officer, Bhowanipore, issued the notice at annexure 'C', calling upon the petitioner to show cause why action should not be taken against it under Section 22(1 )(c) of the Act for having purchased tax-free, 'goods like paper, ink and other articles for printing', 'as you are not registered for these goods and the existing registration certificate does not authorise tax-free purchases of such goods.

6. The petitioner having pointed out the exemption clause in the existing registration certificate, respondent No. 1 issued the letter dated 3rd October, 1961, at annexure 'D', asking the petitioner to submit its registration certificate for amendment to delete 'paper and ink' from the exemption clause as they are 'not necessary for use in the manufacture of toilets, ayurvedic and pharmaceutical preparations'. Rejecting the petitioner's objection to such amendment (annexure 'E'), respondent No. 1 intimated that (annexure 'F') in case the petitioner defaulted in submitting his registration certificate, by the given date, he would amend it unilaterally, by deleting 'paper and ink' and 'building and plumbing materials' from the exemption clause in the certificate. It was also stated in that letter (annexure 'F') that the assurance given in the Commercial Tax Officer's previous letter (Memo. No. 9544 of 12th December, 1960) was not binding upon the respondent. On 13th July, 1962 (annexure 'G'), respondent No. 1 informed the petitioner that its registration certificate 'has been amended' by deletion of 'paper and ink' and 'building and plumbing materials' and that he should now submit the certificate for noting the amendment therein. Against this order of respondent No. 1, the petitioner submitted a revision petition under Section 20(3) of the Act to the Assistant Commissioner of Commercial Taxes (respondent No. 2) but the latter rejected it by his order at annexure 'H', dated 31st January, 1963.

7. On 23rd April, 1963, the petitioner obtained the Rule from this Court, challenging the validity of the orders at annexures 'G' and 'H' on various grounds. It appears that before the revisional authority as well as this Court, the deletion of one item only has been challenged, namely, paper and ink. Respondent No. 1 has filed a counter-affidavit on behalf of himself as well as respondent No. 2-the revisional authority. Two points have been urged before me by Mr. Chakravarty on behalf of the petitioner :

I. That (i) tinder Section 7(4), the Commissioner may amend a registration certificate only on the grounds specified in Section 16, whether he acts upon information furnished by the dealer under that section or on information received from any other source, and that (ii) if he wants to act on any other ground, he can do it only by way of review, on compliance with the requirements of Section 20(4),(5).

II. That even if the Commissioner has the jurisdiction to amend a certificate on grounds other than those specified in Section 16, in the instant case, the deletion of 'paper and ink' is without jurisdiction or vitiated by an error apparent on. the face of the record inasmuch as 'paper and ink' comes under the deduction clause in Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Act as goods purchased by the petitioner 'for use by him in the manufacture in West Bengal of goods for sale' or as 'other material for the packing of goods of the class or classes so specified'.

I. The first question arises in this way :

Sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Act lays down that nobody can carry on business as a 'dealer' unless he possesses a registration certificate, to obtain which he has to make an application under Sub-section (2), and Sub-section (3) empowers the prescribed authority to grant a certificate if he is satisfied that 'it is in order'.

Sub-section (4) provides for amendment of a certificate after it had been duly granted under Sub-section (3). It says :

The Commissioner may from time to time amend any certificate of registration in accordance with information furnished under Section 16 or otherwise received.

8. Now, Section 16 refers only to three contingencies, which may call for an amendment of the certificate, under Section 7(4), namely,-

(a) change in the ownership of the business;

(b) discontinuance of the business;

(c) change in the name of the business or in the class of goods dealt with.

9. On the happening of any of the three contingencies specified in Section 16, the dealer has the obligation to inform the prescribed authority, so that upon such information received, the authority gets the opportunity of amending the certificate. It is common ground that Section 16 has no application to the facts of the instant case, so that the respondents have to rely upon the residuary part of Section 7(4), 'or otherwise received'.

10. The contention of the learned Advocate for the petitioner is that the residuary part, namely, 'otherwise received' has to be construed with reference to the preceding words 'furnished under Section 16', and that, accordingly, even though the information may be received from any other source, such information must relate to any of the three contingencies mentioned in Section 16 and cannot relate to any other contingency, such as a change in the opinion of the authority itself, or any other reason as the authority may like to act upon.

11. A vexed question under Section 34 of the Income-tax Act of 1922 and in statutes which arc in pari materia has been whether the 'information' referred to therein refers to information as to an objective fact or includes subjective information of the authority himself. This question has been settled, after a prolonged controversy, by the Supreme Court (Kamal Singh v. Commissioner of Income-tax [1959] 35 I.T.R. 1 and Wealth-tax Commissioner v. Imperial Tobacco Co. [1966] 61 I.T.R. 461) holding that the word 'information' is wide enough to include the officer's own knowledge. There is nothing in the Act before us to attribute a different meaning to the word 'information'. But the question remains, can the words 'otherwise received' refer to information relating to any matter other than the three contingencies specified by Section 16 Unfortunately for the petitioner, this question has been answered against it by two Single Bench decisions of this Court (Bhartia Electric Steel Co. v. Commercial Tax Officer [1956] 7 S.T.C. 527 and Merchant & Traders v. State of West Bengal [1963] 14 S.T.C. 798), and, though the question was left by the Division Bench in Indian Iron & Steel Co. v. Commercial Tax Officer [1957] 8 S.T.C. 517, 532, the concluding words relied upon by Mr. Chakravarty do not, indeed, support him but show an inclination of the Court to the contrary. These words are :-

I might only add that it is by no means clear to me that the information, otherwise received, must necessarily be information of the kind indicated in clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Section 16...

12. Of course, the language used in Section 7(4) is inartistic, and it would have been better if the Legislature had introduced the words 'or for any other reason' as the Central Legislature has used in Section 7(4)(a) of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956. But the construction given by the two Single Benches do not appear to be so patently unreasonable as to persuade me to refer the question to a larger Bench in view of the contrary opinion expressed by another learned Judge of the Punjab High Court in Harcharan v. Assessing Authority [1963] 14 S.T.C. 549, on which Mr. Chakravarty relies. Section 7 (4) of the Bengal Act empowers the authority to amend the certificate 'in accordance with information', which means that if there is an 'information', it may relate to any subject-matter which may require an amendment of the certificate and it is possible to read the words following 'information' as merely indicating the source of the information-whether received from the dealer himself or from any other source, including the knowledge of the authority himself, as in the present case, as to a proper interpretation of the exemption clause in Section 5(2)(a)(ii) upon which an entry in the certificate had been previously made.

13. It is contended on behalf of the petitioner that such an interpretation would bring Section 7(4) in conflict with Section 20(4), (5) which empowers the authority to review his order on any ground, but only after giving an opportunity to be heard to the person likely to be adversely affected, while there is no such requirement in Section 7(4). There would, however, be no conflict if Section 20(4) be interpreted to confer a power to be used in cases other than those requiring an amendment of a registration certificate, for which special provision has been made in Section 7(4). This is the conclusion to be arrived at if the two provisions are read together. As to the point that while Section 20(5) required an opportunity of being heard to be offered to the dealer, there is no such obligation under Section 7(4), it may be said that the Legislature may have considered the amendment of a certificate to be a matter of lesser importance where the availability of the statutory remedies of revision and appeal would suffice to safeguard the rights of the dealer. It may be mentioned that in the instant case, the petitioner has, in fact, availed of the remedy by way of revision, though without success.

14. The present contention is, therefore, rejected.

II. The second point relates to an interpretation of Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Act, the relevant portion of which says:

In this Act the expression 'taxable turnover' means...that part of his gross turnover...which remains after deducting therefrom-

(a) his turnover during that period on

(ii) sales to a registered dealer of goods of the class or classes specified in the certificate of registration of such dealer, as being intended for resale in West Bengal or for use by him in the manufacture in West Bengal of goods for sale,

and of containers and other materials for the packing of goods of the class or classes so specified.

15. For deduction on account of purchases of paper and ink, the petitioner relies upon two of the clauses set out above :

(a) that they are used by the petitioner in the manufacture of his finished products which are offered for sale; and

(b) that they are materials for the packing of such products. The petitioner is entitled to succeed if the answer to either of these two questions be in its favour.

16. I shall take the second ground first, because the reason given by the revising authority (annexure 'H', p. 30) for rejecting the claim on this behalf is patently based on an erroneous interpretation of Section 5(2)(a)(ii) and constitutes an 'error apparent on the face of the record'. He says :

Moreover a careful reading of the section will reveal that even the packing materials required for packing the finished product cannot be purchased tax-free under this section because the finished products are not the goods specified in the registration certificate as intended for use in the manufacture.

17. It is clear that the revising authority has assumed, without deciding that paper and ink are used by the petitioner, in whole or in ' part, for packing the finished products sold by it, namely, patent medicines, toilet preparations and the like, which are specified in the certificate (annexure 'A') as the goods which are sold by the petitioner. Nevertheless, the revising authority has rejected the claim for deduction on the ground that picking materials cannot be said to be intended for 'the manufacture' of the finished products. As I have set out Section 5(2)(a)(ii), in two paragraphs, it is obvious that it has two parts : while the first part relates to goods offered by the dealer for resale or used by him in the manufacture of other goods offered by him for sale (after manufacture), the latter part relates to materials purchased by the dealer for the packing of the manufactured goods. If the first part had stood alone, the reasoning of the revising authority might have some meaning, but he has overlooked that the purchase of 'packing materials' stand out as an independent category. Assuming for the time being that paper and ink are not required for 'the manufacture' of the patent medicines etc., it cannot be said that the purchase thereof are not to be deducted even, though they are required for 'packing' the medicines etc., the sale of which is the business of the petitioner and for which he has been registered as a dealer for purposes of the Sales Tax Act. Paper and ink could not be deleted from the certificate without considering this point. The reasoning of the revising authority relating to 'paper and ink' as packing materials, thus, constitutes an 'error apparent on the face of the record' for which his order at annexure 'H' is liable to be set aside. But in view of the fact that he has not made any definite finding whether either or both of them constitute 'packing materials', I should direct to make a fresh finding on this point, instead of making a finding myself (vide Prem Sagar v. Standard Vacuum Oil Co. [1964] 5 S.C.R. 1030).

18. As to the other ground that paper and ink are 'intended for use by the petitioner in the manufacture...of goods for sale', while Mr. Chakravarty lays stress on the words 'for sale' and argues that the labels, cartons etc. are necessary for the sale of the finished products, Mr. Dutt on behalf of the respondents relies on the word 'in' and contends that it is only goods which are directly necessary for the manufacture of the finished products, namely, the medicines etc. which would come within the purview of the clause and not those which may be indirectly necessary. Three Supreme Court decisions have been presented before me. Of those, the latest is Indra Singh v. Sales Tax Officer [1966] 17 S.T.C. 510. Though this case relates to the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, the relevant provision in Section 8(3)(b) of that Act is similar to that in Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Act before me and the Court had to interpret the same expression 'or for use by him in the manufacture of goods for sale', so that the words relied upon by Mr. Chakravarty as well as Mr. Dutt are all to be found in the provision before the Supreme Court. In this case, reiterating the Court's earlier view in Indian Copper Corporation v. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes [1965] 16 S.T.C. 259, their Lordships held that, in order to claim deduction, the goods in question must be necessary for the process of manufature, as distinguished from merely 'facilitating' it. From this standpoint, stationery, furniture, sanitary fittings and the like could not claim the deduction even though they could not be dispensed with by a manufacturer. In the Indian Copper case, [1965] 16 S.T.C. 259, it was expressly observed that the words 'intended to be used' could not be equated with 'likely to facilitate' (page 266, ibid.).

19. Of course, as held in the earlier case of J. K. Cotton Spinning v. Sales Tax Officer [1965] 16 S.T.C. 563, the process of manufacture must be liberally interpreted so as to comprise all the processes required for manufacturing the finished product, but it cannot include the 'marketing' of the finished product. This was also a case relating to Section 8(3)(b) and the words 'for sale' were there and the Court laid stress on the words 'in the manufacture' and held that this expression takes within its compass all processes which are directly related to the actual production (pages 569-570) but cannot include goods 'which facilitate the conduct of the business of manufacture' and it was for this reason that the Court rejected the claim in respect of office equipments, such as fans, air-conditioners and the like. If marketing were included within the process of manufacture, separate mention of 'containers and packing materials' would not have been necessary in Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Act.

20. Upon a reading of the three decisions, I am unable to agree that 'paper and ink' can come within the expression of 'for use by him in the manufacture of goods for sale', and this ground must therefore fail.

21. But, in view of my decision relating to 'packing materials', and the observations made in connection with that, this Rule must be made absolute. The preliminary objection raised by Mr. Dutt that the petitioner should not be entitled to any remedy inasmuch as he did not pursue the further statutory remedies available against the order in revision cannot be of any avail in a case where the impugned order is vitiated by an error apparent, on the face of the record relating to the interpretation of a statute (Bhopal Sugar Industries v. Dube [1963] 14 S.T.C. 410, 415).

22. In the result, the Rule is made absolute but without any order as to costs. The impugned order at annexure 'H' passed by respondent No. 2 is quashed in so far as it is founded on the claim of paper and ink to be considered as 'packing materials' within the meaning of Section 5(2)(a)(ii) of the Act and he is directed to make a fresh disposal of the revision petition before him in accordance with the law, after arriving at a finding on the point aforesaid and in the light of the observations made herein.

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