GOPAL RAO EKBOTE,J. -
(1.) THIS case has come to us on a reference made by a Bench on 17th June, 1971.
The facts in outline are that the petitioner-firm was doing groundnut business in 1962-63. The firm was purchasing groundnuts and after decorticating the same into kernel was selling the kernel to the dealers inside as well as outside the State. For the assessment year 1962-63, the Commercial Tax Officer, Cuddapah, determined the petitioner's net assessable turnover at Rs. 8,20,683. 90 after allowing the exemption of turnover of Rs. 4,35,214. 32 on the ground that the goods have suffered tax at the hands of subsequent dealers.
The petitioner was still dissatisfied with the assessment order. He preferred an appeal to the Assistant Commissioner, Nellore, disputing the turnover of Rs. 3,70,714. 65 which was subjected to tax. The disputed turnover comprised, inter alia, one of Rs. 97,200. 51 and the other comprised of the rest of the turnover which was subjected to tax.
(2.) THE Assistant Commissioner allowed the appeal relating to the turnover of Rs. 97,200. 51. He, however, disallowed the appeal in respect of the other item. He reduced the tax thus by Rs. 1,944. The petitioner preferred further appeal to the Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal disputing the turnover of Rs. 2,75,514. 14. The said appeal is still pending.
While the matter stood thus, the Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Nellore, issued notice under section 20 of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act on 8th March, 1968. The proposal was to revise the order of the Assistant Commissioner relating to the item of the turnover of Rs. 97,200. 51. It was also proposed to revise the order of the Commercial Tax Officer relating to the exemption of turnover of Rs. 4,35,214. 32.
After the explanation was filed by the petitioner, the Deputy Commissioner rejected his contentions and by his order dated 14th November, 1968, set aside the order of the Assistant Commissioner by which the Assistant Commissioner had allowed the exemption of turnover of Rs. 97,200. 51. The Deputy Commissioner also revised the order of the Commercial Tax Officer by disallowing the exemption granted on the turnover of Rs. 4,35,214. 32. The order was served on the petitioner on 28th November, 1968. He did not prefer any appeal against the said order of the Deputy Commissioner. Instead he filed the writ petition in this court on 14th August, 1969, for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Deputy Commissioner dated 14th November, 1968.
In regard to the larger item of Rs. 4,35,214, the only contention was that as the petitioner is a decorticator, who merely separates the kernel from the shell and sells the kernel to dealers within and without the State, he does not come within the meaning of the term "miller" used in column 2 of item 3-C in Schedule IV of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1957.
It is common ground that it is item 3-C as it stood at the time of the transactions in question that is applicable to the facts of the present case. The said provision, as it then stood, was in the following terms :
" When purchased by a miller in the State, at the point of purchase by the miller and in all other cases at the point of purchase by the last dealer who buys it in the State. "
(3.) BEFORE we consider the main question, it is perhaps necessary to remember that section 14 (vi) of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, declares oil-seeds, that is to say, seeds yielding non-volatile oils used for human consumption, or in industries, or in the manufacture of varnishes, soaps and the like, in lubrication, and volatile oils used chiefly in medicines, perfumes, cosmetics and the like as goods of special importance in inter-State trade or commerce. The result of it is that according to section 15, sales tax law of a State shall be subject to certain restrictions and conditions when it imposes a tax on the sale or purchase of declared goods. The first restriction is that the tax payable under such law in respect of any sales or purchases of such declared goods inside the State shall not exceed 3 per cent of the sale or purchase price thereof. The second restriction is that such tax shall not be levied at more than one stage. Section 6 of the State Act is enacted to give effect to those restrictions.
Keeping in view these restrictions, we have to consider the implication of the provision in item 3-C. Before we consider it, it is useful to remember the antecedents of the provision as well as the subsequent amendment made therein.
Under the Madras General Sales Tax Act, groundnuts were taxed at multiple points. Every purchaser was liable to pay the tax. The Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1957, however, provided the point of levy to be the point of first purchase within the State.
By amending Act 3 of 1958, the tax was imposed on groundnuts at the point of last purchase in the State.
The said item 3-C was further subjected to an amendment under Act 26 of 1961 which provided that groundnuts "when purchased by a miller in the State, at the point of purchase by the miller and in all other cases at the point of purchase by the last dealer who buys it in the State" would be taxed.
Although we are not concerned in the present case with the subsequent amendment made by Act 16 of 1963, it is perhaps profitable to notice it. According to the said amendment, the point of levy of tax on groundnuts when purchased by a miller "other than a decorticating miller" in the State is at the point of purchase by such miller and in all other cases at the point of purchase by the last dealer who buys in the State.
Since we are concerned with the amended provisions of item 3-C made under Act 26 of 1961, we have to consider whether a decorticating miller is included within the ambit of the term "miller" used in that provision.;