Decided on August 02,1972



GOPAL RAO EKBOTE,C.J. - (1.) THE only short but important question, which has to be answered in these appeals, is whether the silk yarn is hand-spun yarn within the meaning of item 20 of para. 4 of G. O. Ms. No. 1091 dated 10th June, 1957. India has a rich sericigenous fauna and is the only country in the world which produces all the four economically known varieties of silk, viz. , mulberry silk, eri silk, tasar silk and muga silk. While India ranks fourth in the world monopoly in regard to the production of muga silk, the silk production industry is predominantly an agro-industry. Silk production is a four-tier process - mulberry cultivation, cocoon raising, raw silk reeling and silk weaving. While the first two stages are integrated with agriculture, the latter two come under the industrial sector.
(2.) OF the four species, mulberry is grown in India. Indian mulberry cocoons have on an average 200 to 300 metres of reelable silk filament and the cocoon raw silk ratio (renditta) in filatures ranges from 17 to 20. About 75 per cent. of the total mulberry silk production is reeled on indigenous crude appliance called charka. The crude appliances, however, are being gradually replaced by the improved ones. It is unnecessary for our purpose to mention how the cocoons are raised; cocoons selected for reeling are generally uniform in size and rich in quality and length of reelable yarn. The cocoons are first softened by placing them into hot water basin. This breaks down the sericin which forms about one quarter of the cocoon weight and loosens the ends. The outer layer of the cocoon known as "knubb" is brushed apart and the end is picked up. Since the size or denier of a single cocoon filament is too fine to be of any practical use, number of such filaments 5, 6 or 7 as required are unwound together. Unwinding of these cocoons and winding the yarn on hanks is known as reeling. The process of reeling basically consists in finding the outside end of the cocoon filament technically called "bave" and unravelling it. The primitive reeling method is still widely in vogue and the method is a simple operation. The reeling appliance consists of an unstandardised hank, mostly made of wood which unwinds raw silk from cocoons placed in boiling water cauldron. The heat is being retained by a fine burning beneath it. A metal strip with two holes serves as thread guides. Both cooking and reeling are done in the same basin. The cocoon filaments stick to a small brush or even to a simple rod. The appliance is operated either by hand or foot. India's "charka" or "ghai" are such primitive appliances. It is perhaps necessary also to know as to how the cocoons throw out the silk filaments. When the silk worm reaches its maximum growth, it ceases to eat, diminishes in weight, changes from a greenish white to creamy white colour and looks for a suitable spot to anchor its silk filament. The ripe worms are then picked up and mounted on straw trusses, a cocoonage. From a pair of glands running the length of the body it emits through the spinneret a viscous solution which comes out as silk filament. By throwing silk filaments in all directions the restless worm first builds a hammock to support the future cocoon. After a short rest the master spinner sets to spin the cocoon around itself and completes the work within two or three days. This then is the entire process of preparing the silk yarn. The contention of the learned Government Pleader was that inasmuch as the filaments are spun by the cocoons themselves, what is done by the tribesmen, who mostly deal in such work, is to find out first the ends of 5 to 7 filaments by hand and twist them into one. The yarn then is reeled on a charka. It cannot be said that it is a hand-spun silk yarn.
(3.) NOW the term "hand-spun" is not a term of art. It is not defined in the Act. Any definition of this term made in any other Act evidently has not been made applicable to the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act and, consequently, would be of little avail. The term has therefore to be understood as is used in the industrial field. The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary defines the word "spin" to mean "draw out and twist into threads, whether it is wool, cotton or silk". The word "yarn" is also defined to mean "fibre, as of cotton, wool, silk, flax, spun and prepared for use in weaving". The word "reel" is also defined to mean "kinds of rotatory apparatus on which thread, silk, yarn, paper, wire, etc. , are wound at some stage of manufacture". The Madras Commercial Taxes Manual, Volume I, at page 177, describes hand-spun yarn to mean "yarn spun on charka or takli as distinct from mill yarn. It includes also silk and wool yarn spun by hand". What follows from these definitions is that silk yarn reeled and made as fibre for use for preparing silk cloth is also said to be a hand-spun silk yarn. Merely because the cocoons in the manner described above throw out silk filaments, it cannot be said that the entire process of picking out these filaments, twisting them and reeling the fibre on a charka, which process is also done by hand is not a hand-spun silk yarn. It is also highly doubtful whether the throwing out of filaments by cocoons can be said to be a process of spinning by the cocoons. In this respect the difference between the silk filament and the silk yarn must be borne in mind. It is seen from the various bills and memos. produced by the petitioners that in the trade circles this production is known as hand-spun silk yarn. Although the direction of the Board of Revenue given sometime back describing this product as a hand-spun silk yarn is not of much evidentiary value, it certainly points out to the fact that even the administrators connected with commercial taxes were treating this commodity as hand-spun silk yarn. That is why for all these long years exemption from tax was being granted. It is only recently that notices for revising the assessments granting exemption to the transactions in silk yarn are sought to be given. The petitioners in their affidavit have stated that such exemption is granted in several States and that assertion has not been specifically denied.;

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