P.V.DIXIT, J. -
(1.) IN this reference under Section 44(1) of the Madhya Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) at the instance of the Commissioner of Sales Tax the two questions which the Board of Revenue (Sales Tax Tribunal) has referred are : -
(1) What is the correct interpretation of the word 'meal' occurring in sub -item (b) of item 9 of Schedule I of the Madhya Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1958, and will the sale of one or more articles of annexure II constitute a sale of a meal ? (2) Under the facts and circumstances of the case is the cooked food supplied by the assessee and mentioned in annexure II exempted from the payment of sales tax under item 9 of Schedule I of the Madhya Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1958?
(2.) THE material facts are that the assessee, the India Coffee Workers' Co -operative Society Ltd., Jabalpur, runs a restaurant. It serves or sells to its customers as many as 32 food articles. They are : -
1. Hot coffee, 2. Tray coffee, 3. Hot cream coffee, 4. Cold cream coffee, 5. Cold coffee, 6. Ice -cream, 7. Fruit ice -cream, 8. Pine -apple icecream, 9. Dosa, 10. Mutton cutlet, 11. Vegetable cutlet, 12. Mutton chops, 13. Omlette, 14. Eggs fried, 15. Eggs boiled, 16. Bread and butter, 17. Toast, 18. Bread with jam, 19. Toast with jam, 20. Eggs sandwiches, 21. Vegetable sandwiches, 22. Pakoda, 23. Nuts, 24. Wafer, 25. Oothappam, 26. Chips, 27. Tomato sauce (extra), 28. Milk, 29. Mutton omlette, 30. Tomato omlette, 31. Scrambled eggs, 32. Dahivada.
On the basis of counterfoils, each of them showing sales of these articles for an amount exceeding Rs. 2, the Sales Tax Officer, Jabalpur, came to the conclusion that in the period from 1st July, 1961, to 30th June, 1962, the assessee's turnover of sales of 'meals' was Rs. 39,000 and subjected it to sales tax accordingly. This turnover was reduced to Rs. 20,000 by the Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax, Jabalpur, in the first appeal that the assessee preferred against the assessment order of the Sales Tax Officer. In the second appeal which the assessee then preferred before the Board of Revenue it was held that the sale by the assessee of any of the afore -enumerated articles singly or collectively to its customer or customers did not constitute any sale of 'a meal', that by selling those articles what the assessee sold was cooked food which was exempt from tax under Section 10(1) read with item No. 9 of Schedule I to the Act. On this view the Sales Tax Tribunal excluded from the taxable turnover, the turnover of the articles which the Appellate Assistant Commissioner had treated as turnover of sale of 'meals', each exceeding in value Rs. 2.
Section 10(1) of the Act says that: 'No tax shall be payable on the sales or purchases of goods, specified in the second column of Schedule I, subject to the conditions and exceptions, if any, set out in the corresponding entry in the third column thereof.' Item No. 9 of the Schedule reads as follows : -
Schedule I [See Section 10(1)] Goods exempted from tax. _____________________________________________________________S. No. Description of goods Conditions and excep -tions subject to whichexemption has beenallowed.______________________________________________________________9. Cooked food other than -(a) pastries,(b) a meal the charge of whichexceeds rupees two,(c) sweetmeats.________________________________________________________________
(3.) IT will be seen from Section 10(1) read with entry No. 9 that sales of 'cooked food' are exempt from tax. But if the 'cooked food' is 'a meal' the charge of which exceeds rupees two, then its sale is not exempt from tax. In this reference there is no controversy that the articles enumerated earlier sold by the assessee are cooked food. The sole question raised in this reference is whether the sale of any of those articles singly or collectively exceeding in value rupees two constitutes 'a meal' the charge of which exceeds rupees two. This question turns on the construction of the expression 'a meal'. The Act does not give any definition of 'meal'. The expression 'a meal' must, therefore, be understood in the sense it has in common parlance and in its popular meaning as understood by people who sell and serve meals (see Ramavatar v. Assistant Sales Tax Officer A.I.R. 1961 S.C. 1325. Now, when one talks of a meal, what one means is 'food one takes at regular times of the day at a breakfast, dinner, supper etc.' No doubt, one can satisfy the requirements of hunger and exist by eating at any time everything that is eatable, but that is not taking 'a meal'; it is making 'a meal' of the eatable or eatables. No one who goes to the restaurant run by the assessee and asks for being served 'a meal' will accept singly or collectively any of the snacks or preparations enumerated earlier sold by the assessee. In our judgment, the sale of any of the articles sold by the assessee did not constitute sale of any 'meal'. The sales were of 'cooked food' which is exempt from tax under item No. 9 of Schedule I.;