G RAMASWAMY Vs. STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH
HIGH COURT OF ANDHRA PRADESH
STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH
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GOPAL RAO EKBOTE,C.J. -
(1.) THE short but important question which must be answered in this batch of writ petitions is whether planks, rafters, cut sizes, etc. , sawn or cut out of nascent timber, i. e. , log of wood, is timber within the meaning of item 63 of the First Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, hereinafter called "the Act".
(2.) THE facts do not matter because nothing turns upon them; it is enough to say that all the petitioners are dealers in timber. They purchase logs of wood and saw or cut them into planks, rafters, cut sizes, etc. , and then sell them for the purpose of construction of building and the like. Under section 5 (2) (a) read with item "63. Timber" in the First Schedule to the Act a dealer in timber is liable to pay sales tax thereon at 3 pies in a rupee at the point of first sale. The petitioners are sought to be taxed on "planks, rafters, cut sizes, etc. ," which they sell to the customers under section 5 of the Act treating them as general goods. The contention of the petitioners is that they deal in timber and since the sales which they effect are not the first sales, they are not therefore liable to pay any tax under item 63 of the First Schedule to the Act. They submit that since the transactions fall under item 63 as they deal in timber, they cannot be taxed under section 5 of the Act.
Since the obligation to pay tax arises only from a legislative provision, the nature and extent of the liability is naturally measured by the legislative intent. All the relevant rules of statutory construction therefore become relevant in the interpretation of a tax measure. The first and most elementary rule of construction is that the words used in a statute have to be given their ordinary meaning unless that appears to be at variance with the intention of the Legislature or leads to manifest absurdity.
Conspicuously important to the interpretation of a tax measure is also the rule that words are to be given their common and ordinary meaning.
It is plain that in dealing with matters relating to the general public, statutes are presumed to use words in their popular, rather than their narrowly legal or technical sense. It was not contended that the word "timber" used has any narrowly legal or technical meaning. Since the provision is directed to deal with a matter affecting people generally, as the timber is in common use, the word used would have the meaning attached to it in the common and ordinary use of language.
What then is the common or ordinary meaning of the word "timber" ? It is neither a technical word nor a word of art. It is not defined in the Act or the Rules made thereunder.
(3.) ALTHOUGH the dictionaries are not to be taken as authoritative exponents of the meanings of the words used in an Act, it is a well-known rule of courts of law that words should be taken to be used in their ordinary sense, and the courts are therefore sent for instruction to the dictionaries. Dictionaries have been resorted to in innumerable cases for guidance of the courts in the absence of any legislative or judicial guidance. Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines the word "timber" to mean "wood as material for building or carpentry especially in squared logs and planks, or beam or other wooden structural parts".
The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary gives the meaning as "wood prepared for building, etc. , piece of wood".
Law Lexicon by P. Ramanatha Iyer states that "timber" means "wood fitted for building or other such like use".
Even in common parlance it was not doubted that timber means not only the logs of wood but includes planks, rafters and square sticks prepared for the construction of a building.;
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