Decided on November 08,2016

Commercial Tax Officer And Ors. Appellant
State Bank of India And Anr. Respondents


DIPAK MISRA,J. - (1.) The seminal question that emerges for consideration in this appeal is whether the State Bank of India (SBI) and its branches, which are registered dealers under the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941 (for brevity, 'the Act') would be liable to levy of purchase tax under Section 5(6a) of the Act for accepting the Exim Scrips (Export Import Licence) on payment of premium of 20 per cent of the face value of the scrips in compliance with the direction contained in the letter of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) dated 18 th March, 1992. The authorities of the revenue as well as the Taxation Tribunal (for short, 'the tribunal') had held against the SBI but the Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta in a writ petition has dislodged the said conclusion holding, inter alia, that the purchase of Exim scrips by the Bank did not attract the provisions of Section 4(6) (iii) of the Act and resultantly quashed the orders of fora below and issued consequential directions.
(2.) It is necessary to state the facts in detail to appreciate the controversy at hand. The SBI is a body corporate constituted under the State Bank of India Act, 1955 for the extension of banking facilities in the country and for other public purposes. The bank has to perform various functions as per the directions issued from time to time by the RBI in keeping with the economic and monetary policies of the Central Government.
(3.) Policies are notified by the Government of India under the Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1947, as amended from time to time, and the Imports (Control) Order, 1955, to regulate imports into and exports out of the country and contain different incentive schemes and subsidies to build up foreign exchange resources of the country. As the facts would reveal before July 4, 1991 there was provision for issuance of Replenishment Licences which were referred to as "REP Licences". The objective behind the grant of such licences was to provide the registered exporters the facility of importing essential goods required for the manufacture of the products to be exported. Such licences were made freely transferable and such transfer did not require any endorsement or permission from the licensing authority and only a letter from the transferor the transferee became the lawful holder of the licence and was entitled to either import the goods for which the licence had been issued or sell the licence to someone else.;

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