1. The Additional Judge (Revisions) Sales Tax has submitted this statement of the case for the opinion of this court on the following question of law :-
Whether black salt is included in the word salt used in Section 4(1 )(a) of the U.P. Sales Tax Act and if so is it exempt from U.P. sales tax ?
2. The question relates to the assessment year 1958-59. The assessee manufactures and sells black salt. His return disclosed a turnover of Rs. 14,072.14 and was accepted, but his claim that black salt was exempt from sales tax under Section 4(l)(a), U.P. Sales Tax Act, was not accepted and the assessing authority levied the tax at the rate of two per cent. The assessee went up in appeal but failed. The Additional Judge (Revisions) Sales Tax held that Section 4 used the word salt and not common salt. Black salt was one of the species of salt and was covered by the word salt used in Section 4 of the Act. He, therefore, allowed the revision and set aside the assessment order. At the instance of the Commissioner, Sales Tax, the question of law mentioned above has been referred for the opinion to this court.
3. The assessee has made a statement before the assessing authority which mentioned the method by which he produced black salt. He stated that he mixed sambher salt with charcoal and heated it. In the result the black salt was produced. The department did not adduce any evidence to contradict the statement of the assessee as to the method and manner of his manufacturing black salt.
4. Learned standing counsel relied on Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Volume I, page 228, column 1, in which black salt has been defined as crude potassium carbonate obtained from wood ashes or in the Leblanc process. He also placed reliance on the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume I, page 895, column 2. There black salt has been referred to as follows :
Wood ashes after lixiviation and evaporation : impure potassium hydrate.
5. Thereafter the learned standing counsel invited our attention to a passage in the Text-Book of Inorganic Chemistry by Partington at page 769 where it has been stated :
When plants are burnt these organic salts form potassium carbonate K2CO3 which since it was formally prepared by calcining cream of tartar, received the name salt of tartar. Large amounts of potassium carbonate are made in Canada, Transylvania and Russia, by lixiviating wood ashes with water, evaporating the solution to dryness and calcining the residue in iron pots. The product is potash; when purified it is known as pearlash.
6. Relying on these authorities, the learned standing counsel urged that black salt is a potassium compound and is not chemically constituted similarly to common salt which is sodium chloride. Hence, the two commodities are different. Black salt could not come within the meaning of the word salt used in Section 4 of the Act.
7. In our opinion, the premise of this argument cannot be upheld. There is no evidence on the record to prove that the article manufactured by the assessee is produced in the manner and method given in these text-books. On the contrary, the uncontroverted material adduced by the assessee is to the effect that he produced the black salt by mixing sambher salt with charcoal and heating it. It is, therefore, difficult to agree that the product called black salt manufactured and sold by the assessee is the same thing as is mentioned in these dictionaries and the text-book by Partington. There is nothing to suggest that if sambher salt is mixed with charcoal and heated it will yield a compound of potassium. This would go to suggest that the product referred to in these text-books is something different. That is a chemical compound of potassium whereas the product manufactured by the assessee is a sodium compound. In the absence of the relevant material, it cannot be assumed that the black salt manufactured by the assessee answers the description given of the black salt mentioned in these authorities.
8. Learned standing counsel also invited our attention to the Advanced Inorganic Chemistry by Dr. Satya Prakash at page 186. He has described Kala Namak (black salt) as follows :
This is also known as Sulemani Namak and is prepared mostly in Northern India, chiefly in Hissar district. It is obtained using common salt along with a little Sajji and chebulic and emblic myrobalans. Sodium sulphate is a necessary ingredient for it, which by the organic matter is partly reduced to sulphide during the process of fusion. In the laboratory, it may be prepared by fusing common salt, a little of sodium carbonate, 5-10 per cent. sodium sulphate and some sugar. It has got a vermilion or dark purple colour and possesses a characteristic saline taste. It is largely used for its medicinal properties and is very useful for digestion.
9. It would, thus, appear that the black salt produced in Northern India is a product of the ordinary common salt. By mixing it with charcoal it does not seem to lose its chemical constitution. But, it is significant that it is useful for digestion. This would suggest that it is usable on the table, as common salt is.
10. Section 4 of the Act provides for exemption from sales tax. Sub-section (1) says that no tax shall be payable on
(a) the sale of water, milk, salt, newspapers and motor spirit as defined in the U.P. Sales of Motor Spirit (Taxation) Act, 1939 and any other goods which the State Government may by notification in the official Gazette exempt and
11. It will be seen that the Legislature has granted a general exemption from sales tax to the sale of water, milk, salt and newspaper. These are commodities which are used by the citizen everyday commonly. Salt is generally used for eating. The black salt, as we have seen, is also usable for the same purpose, it being useful for digestion. The department did not adduce any evidence to controvert the manner and method of production by the assessee. There is no material to suggest that it is not used for digestive purposes. Merely because the black salt may be used for preparing medicine, would not by itself mean that it is not salt as generally understood. On the scanty material on the record it would appear to us that black salt of the kind manufactured by the assessee was salt as understood in common parlance and hence would be exempt in view of Section 4(1)(a), U.P. Sales Tax Act.
12. We would answer the question referred to us in the affirmative and in favour of the assessee. The assessee will be entitled to his costs which we assess at Rs. 100. The fee of the counsel for the department is assessed at Rs. 100.