(1). The instant writ petition has been filed for issuing direction to the respondents to modify the Scheme for Granting Exemption of Sales Tax with effect from the date of grant of Eligibility Certificate and not to give effect to it from the date of application.
(2). The facts and circumstances giving rise to this case are that petitioner is a registered dealer under the provisions of the Rajasthan Sales Tax Act, 1954 as well as under the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 and is engaged in manufacturing and sale of highdrated lime and other kinds of lime. The State Government issued a Sales Tax Exemption Scheme, 1989 stipulating clear terms and conditions for exemption of sales tax. Petitioner started commercial production on 13.12.1991 though applied for exemption by filing an application on 3.12.92. The Department pointed out certain lacuna and asked the petitioner to furnish the complete information in respect of the application. Petitioner completed the application on 2-1-5.1993. Petitioner's case was considered on 28.5.1993 by the Committee established for the purpose but no decision could be taken on that day. It was again considered and the Committee granted exemption vide order dated 28.1.1991, but the eligibility certificate granting exemption could be issued to the petitioner only on 16.8.1996. Petitioner was informed, vide order dated 5.8.99 (Annex.3) that it was not entitled any further for any exemption under the Acts after expiry of seven years from the date of the application. Hence this writ petition.
(3). It is submitted by Mr. Mehta that by all means, petitioner's application was complete on 2-1.5.93 and it was granted exemption vide order dated 28.1.1994 and, thus, there could be no justification for issuing the eligibility certificate at such a belated stage, i.e. 16.8.1996. Moreso, as neither the liability nor the exemption of tax can be fastened/given with retrospective effect, the Scheme is to be read as giving the benefit of exemption from the date of grant of eligibility certificate. On the other hand, Mr. Johari has submitted that the Scheme is to be read as such and this court must accord a literal interpretation to the terms of the Scheme and petitioner cannot claim any benefit other than what has been provided under the scheme itself. The Scheme earlier provided for the benefit of exemption from the date of issue of the eligibility certificate. However, the Scheme was amended with effect from 22.4.1993 providing the benefit from the date of application complete by all means as per the direction of this Court in several cases.
(4). I have considered the rival submissions.
(5). It is right that the liability of tax cannot be fastened from retrospective effect for the reason that the manufacturer/trader/dealer may not be able to pass-over the liability to whole-seller, retailer or consumer. Similarly, the question of exemption of tax may not be given retrospectively as the manufacturer might have already passed over the liability to the consumers (Vide Constitution Bench Judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Lohia Machines Ltd. & Anr. vs. Union of India & Ors. (1). The liability of tax with retrospective effect cannot be fastened even by amendment as it would adversely affect the accrued/vested statutory rights of the assessee. In the instant case; as the petitioner had been granted the eligibility certificate on 16.8.96, though the application had been complete on 24.5.93. According to the Revenue Department, petitioner was not entitled for exemption beyond 23.5.2000 after expiry of seven years as provided in Annexure C to scheme and as the said period is over, no relief can be granted to it.
(6). Petitioner had completed the application on 24.5.93 and there is ample evidence on record to show that immediately after the grant of benefit of the Scheme vide order dated 28.1.94, petitioner came to know about the said benefit. Petitioner wrote a letter to the Commercial Taxes Officer on 17.2.94 and subsequently on 4.4.94 demanding the eligibility certificate. As petitioner had not been granted the eligibility certificate for two years and seven months, it ought to have approached the higher authorities or the writ court to issue direction to the Department to grant eligibility certificate. Petitioner was fully aware of the fact that by the eligibility certificate dated 28.1.94 (Annex.1) granted exemption for a period of seven years from the date of application and if petitioner was aggrieved by the said order, it ought to have filed an appeal under Clause (6) of the Incentive Scheme, 1989 to the Tribunal. Petitioner, for the reason best known to it, did not go in appeal against the order; accepted it, took benefit of the Scheme and challenged it when it was informed that it was no more entitled to take benefit of the scheme. Petitioner's conduct is not approaching the higher authorities/the Court for issuing directions to the competent authority to issue the eligibility certificate and further not challenging the eligibility certificate in appeal, disentitles him for any relief at such a belated stage.
(7). The Notification dated 6.7.89 providing for the scheme reveals that in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 8(5) of the Central Sales Tax Act, and the Rajasthan Sales Tax Act, 1954, the Incentive Scheme providing for exemption of sales tax on particular industries in the manner and to the extent and for the period as covered by the said Notification. Clause 5 of the said Scheme provides for grant of eligibility certificate. A new industrial unit can make an application for exemption within 180 days from the date of publication of the Scheme for grant of relief under the scheme. Sub-clause (d) of Clause 5 also requires issuance of the eligibility certificate within a period of seven days from the date of receiving the order of grant by the Committee. Sub-clause (3) of Clause 5 provides that such a certificate shall be valid till the maximum limit of exemption from tax as provided in Annexure C to the Scheme, which provides for exemption for a period of seven years. Sub-clause (g) of Clause 5 of the Scheme specifically provides that benefit of the Scheme shall be available from the date of application filed by the applicant unit, complete in all respects, and such benefit shall be subject to the provisions of the Act. As the exemption is only for a period of seven years and petitioner's application was complete only on 24.5.93, the period of exemption expired on 23.5.2000. There is no scope of interpreting the provisions of the Scheme for the reason that there is no ambiguity in the language and the scheme does not require any interpretation whatsoever.
(8). No doubt, there may be a hardship to the petitioner but the court has to give effect to the language of the Scheme and cannot read it otherwise, for the reason that incentive scheme provides for an exemption from the provisions of the Statute. Contents of the Scheme require a strict interpretation for the reason that exemption clause is added to a principal clause primarily with the object of taking it out of the scope of that principal clause what is included in it and what legislature desires to be excluded. (Vide Sales Tax Officer, Jabalpur vs. Hanuman Prasad (2). It is settled principle of law that an exception/exemption clause has to be strictly construed inasmuch as it carves out the exception to the general rule. (Vide Satnam Singh vs. Punjab & Haryana High Court (3) and Grasim Industries Ltd. vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. (4). In Union of India vs. Wood Papers Ltd. (5), the Hon'ble Apex Court observed as under:
"Literally 'exemption' is freedom from liability, tax or duty. Fiscally, it may assume varying shapes, specially in a growing economy; for instance, tax holiday to new units, concessional rate of tax on goods or persons for limited period or with specific objectivity etc. That is why, its construction, unlike the charging provision, has to be tested on different touch stones. In fact, the exemption period is like an exception and on normal principle of construction or interpretation of Statute, it is construed strictly either because of the legislative intention or economic justification or inequitable burden or progressive approach of fiscal principle intended to augment of State's Revenue".
(9). A similar issue stood resolved by the Hon'ble Supreme Court while interpreting the provision of Section 4-A of U.P. Sales Tax Act, providing for similar incentive scheme and the Hon'ble Court, after placing reliance upon its earlier judgments in C.C.E. vs. Parley Exports Pvt. Ltd. (6); Union of India vs. Wood Papers Ltd. (supra); Mangalore Chemical & Fertilizers Ltd. vs. Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes (7) and Novopar India Ltd., Hyderabad vs. Collector of Central Excise and Customs, Hyderabad (8), held as under:
"It is suggested by the learned counsel for the respondents that Section 4-A must be liberally construed to further the object underlying it. In case of any ambiguity, it is submitted, the construction favouring the assessee should be adopted. We cannot agree. Section 4-A provides for exemption from tax. It is repeatedly held by this Court that a provision providing for an exemption or exception, as the case may be, has to be construed strictly."
(10). Similarly, a Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, in Hansraj Gordhandas vs. H.H. Dave (9), while interpreting a similar provision, observed that such a notification has to be interpreted in the light of the words employed by it, and not on any other basis, for the reason that in the Taxing Statute, there is no room for any intendment, therefore, regard must be had to the clear meaning of the words and the mailer should be governed wholly by the language of the notification, i.e. by the plain terms of the exemption. In Mathuram Agarwal vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. (10), the Hon'ble Apex Court observed as under:
"The intention of the legislature in a taxation statute is to be gathered from the language of the provisions, particularly, where the language is plain and unambiguous. In a Taxing Act, it is not possible to assume any intention or governing purpose of the State more than what is stated in the plain language.... Equally, impermissible is an interpretation which does not follow from the plain and unambiguous language of the Statute."
(11). In M/s. Sarswati Sugar Mills vs. Haryana State Board of Pollution & Ors. (11), the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that there can be no room for any intendment, nor is there equity about a tax. Nothing is to be read in and nothing can be implied, and while interpreting the taxing statute, one has to look fairly at the language used therein. The fiscal statute must, therefore, be strictly construed in order to find out the extent of liability fastened on a particular industry and while doing so, the fiscal statute must be read according to its natural construction of words. While deciding the said case, the Apex Court placed reliance upon large number of its earlier judgments, particularly, in Gursahai Saigal vs. C.I.T. (12); Controller of Estate Duty vs. Kantilal Trikamlal (13); A.V. Farnandez vs. State of Kerala (14); C.I.T. vs. Mr. P. Firm Muar (15), and various other English judgments and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority vs. Sharda Kumar Jayanti Kumar Parawalla (16).
(12). In Martand Dairy & Farm vs. Union of India & Ors. (17), the Hon'ble Apex Court observed that taxation law is not always logic and considerations may stem from administrative experience and other factors of life and not artistic visualisation and neat logic and so "the literal, though pedestrian, interpretation must prevail." Same view was subsequently reiterated in Member Secretary, A.P.S.B. for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution vs. A.P. Ravons Ltd. (18). It is also also well settled that a very wide letitude is available to the legislature in fiscal matters but fiscal enactments require strict interpretation.
(13). The Court is bound to give a literal interpretation if there is no ambiguity in the provision. In Chhunibhai Deajabhai vs. Narainrao Jambekar & Anr. (19), the Apex Court observed that an interpretation of the provision without giving full effect to the language used, would be unsupportable and hence not permissible. In Martin Burn Ltd. vs. Corporation of Calcutta (20), the Apex Court observed as under:
"That a result flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A court has no power to ignore that provision to relieve what it considers a distress resulting from its operation. A statute must, of course, be given effect to whether the Court likes the result or not."
(15). In V.V.S. Sugars vs. Government of Andhra Pradesh (24), the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed that while interpreting the tax statute, the literal and strict construction is to be applied. The Court has to read a fiscal statute as it reads, with no addition and no substruction on the ground of legislative intendment and reading it otherwise would defeat the legislative intent. Similar view has been reiterated in Shyam Kishori Devi vs. Patna Municipal Corporation (25) and Gulam Yasin Khan vs. Sahebrao Yaswantrao Walaskar & Anr. (26).
(16). In Orissa State Warehousing Corporation vs. Commissioner of Income Tax (27), the Apex Court held as under:
"A fiscal statute has to be interpreted on the basis of language used therein and not dehors the same. No words ought to be added and only the language used ought to be considered so as to ascertain the proper meaning and intent of the legislature. The court is to ascribe natural and ordinary meaning to the words used by the legislature and ought not, under any circumstances, substitute its own impression and ideas in place of the legislative intent as is available from a plain reading of the statutory provisions. Individual cases of hardship and injustice do not and cannot have any bearing for rejecting the natural construction."
(17). Similar view has been reiterated in Arulnadar vs. Authorised Officer; Land Reforms, (28) and Jagdish Chandra Pathak vs. State of Orissa (29).
(18). In Karamchari Union, Agra vs. Union of India & Ors. (30), the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that while interpreting the fiscal statute, general and plain meaning of the words have to be given by the Court. Equity and hardship to an individual assessee are out of place in interpretation of tax statutes. Similar view has been reiterated in Commissioner of Income Tax, Bhopal vs. Hindustan Elector Graphites Ltd., Indore (31) and Travencore Rubber & Tea Co. Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, Trivendrum (32).
(19). In Molarmal vs. K.Y. Iron Works Pvt. Ltd. (33), the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that unless the statute, read as a whole, indicates a different meaning or provides for inconsistency, the Court has to interpret the language of the provisions literally and merely because a law causes hardship, it cannot be read otherwise.
(20). Thus, in view of the above, I am of the considered opinion that as the language of the Scheme is plain and simple having no ambiguity and the Scheme read as a whole does not provide for a different meaning, it has to be construed strictly and interpreted literally.
(21). The aforesaid facts clearly spell out that the complete application was filed by the petitioner on 24.5.93 and prior to the said date, inspite of his application being pending, it could not have been considered being incomplete. The provisions of the Scheme stood amended with effect from 22.4.93, i.e. prior to the date of filing complete application. Therefore, petitioner was fully aware as what was the amendment and Clause 5(g) of the Scheme stood amended by giving the benefit not from the date of grant of eligibility certificate but from the date of filing the application. The amendment in the said Sub-clause (g) of Clause 5 was felt necessitated by the State Government because of the Division Bench judgment of this Court in Devshree Cement Ltd. vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors. (34), wherein this Court has held that providing the exemption from the date of grant of eligibility certificate was not valid and it should be granted from the date of filing the application. Once the Division Bench of this Court has held so, it was mandatory for the State Government to amend the Scheme accordingly.
(22). In view of the Division Bench judgment of this Court, it is not permissible for me, sitting in Single Bench, to take a contrary view or to read the provisions of the Scheme otherwise. Undoubtedly, the respondents had taken uncalled for and unwarranted time in granting the eligibility certificate inspite of the order of the Committee granting the said exemption to the petitioner, but as the petitioner itself had been aware of the fact that the Committee has granted it the benefit and it did not take any action in this regard, as explained above, no relief can be granted to the petitioner and it is not a case where this Court, by any means, can extend the period which has already expired.
(23). In view of the above, the petition stands dismissed. There shall be no order as to costs.