10 June 2024


Supreme Court

State Of Gujarat vs. Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel India



Sales Tax/VAT

Eligibility clause in relation to exemption notification must be given effect to as per the language

The State has preferred the present appeals against the impugned common judgment and order passed by the High Court by which the High Court has upheld the common order passed by the Gujarat Value Added Tax Tribunal, Ahmedabad (“Tribunal”) by which the Tribunal held that, the Respondent is entitled to the exemption from payment of amount of sales tax as per the original Entry No.255(2) vide F.D.’s Notification dated 5th March, 1992, which was issued under Section of the Gujarat Sales Tax Act, 1969.

In the taxing statute, it is the plain language of the provision that has to be preferred, where language is plain and is capable of determining defined meaning. Strict interpretation to the provision is to be accorded to each case on hand. Purposive interpretation can be given only when there is an ambiguity in the statutory provision or it alleges to absurd results, which is so not found in the present case.

In the present case, the intention of the State to provide the incentive under the incentive policy was to give benefit of exemption from payment of purchase tax was to the specific class of industries and, more particularly, as per the list of ‘eligible industries’. Exemption was not available to the industries listed in the ‘ineligible’ industries. It was never the intension of the State Government while framing the incentive policy to grant the benefit of exemption to ‘ineligible industries’ like the power producing industries like the EPL, which as such was put in the list of ‘ineligible’ industries.

It will be for the assessee to show that he comes within the purview of the notification. Eligibility clause, it is well settled, in relation to exemption notification must be given effect to as per the language and not to expand the scope deviating from the language. There is a vast difference and distinction between a charging provision in a fiscal statute and an exemption notification.

The rules of promissory estoppel and estoppel by conduct may not be applied to alter or amend the specific terms and against statutory provisions. All the terms and conditions contained in the exemption notification shall prevail and the person claiming the exemption has to fulfil and satisfy all the eligibility criteria/conditions mentioned in the exemption notification.

The Scheme of the Statute does not in any manner indicate that the incentive provided has to continue for the consecutive years irrespective of the fulfilling of the eligibility conditions. Applicability of the incentive is directly related to the eligibility and not dehors the same. If it is found that the industrial undertaking does not fulfil the eligibility criteria, it cannot claim the incentive/exemption.

The principle of promissory estoppel shall not be applicable contrary to the Statute. Merely because erroneously and/or on misinterpretation, some benefits in the earlier assessment years were wrongly given, cannot be a ground to continue the wrong and to grant the benefit of exemption though not eligible under the exemption notification.

The EPL, under the incentive scheme, was not eligible at all for exemption from payment of purchase tax as in fact power generating companies were put in the list of ‘ineligible industries’. Therefore, by such a modus operandi, the benefit, which was not available to the EPL was made available by such transfer of raw materials by the Essar Steel Ltd. to Essar Power Limited. There is a breach of declaration in Form No.26 also. Therefore, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the levy of penalty is justified and warranted. The Joint Commissioner, the Tribunal as well as the High Court have committed a grave error in quashing and setting aside the penalty imposed by the Assessing Officer.

The impugned common judgment and order passed by the High Court as well as that of the Tribunal quashing and setting aside the demand of purchase tax from the respondent are quashed and set aside. Appeals allowed.

Tags : Exemption Grant Legality

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