Contemporanea Expositio: Clarification/Circular of Department when not binding

Clarifications/Circulars:

The so-called Clarifications dated 09.11.1989 and 27.12.2000 had not been of explaining the meaning of any doubtful term or expression in the statutory provision nor they were explaining the object and purport of the provision concerned. The said Clarifications/Circulars had merely been the expression of the understanding of the concerned officer, be it SCCT or PCCT, about operation of Section 7-A of the Act vis-à-vis the purchase turnover of the empty bottles purchased by the assessee. However, such understanding of the officer concerned turns out to be a pure misunderstanding, when it stands at contradiction or incongruous to the declaration of law by the Courts; and could only be ignored. The latest Circular of the year 2002, issued after decision of the jurisdictional Tribunal in the case of Appollo Saline Pharmaceuticals (supra) could also be read only to the extent it is in conformity with the decision of the Tribunal (that came to be approved by the High Court) and in any case, even this circular cannot be decisive of the interpretation of Section 7-A of the Act. The decisive interpretation shall only be the one which is rendered in the binding decision/s of the Court. In continuity, we may also observe that various other decisions referred on behalf of the assessee, that modification of any particular circular or guideline or policy decision could only be made effective prospectively, have no application whatsoever to the present case.

Held that the purchase turnover of the empty bottles purchased by the assessee from the unregistered dealers under bought note is exigible to purchase tax under Section 7-A of the Tamil Nadu Act; and the assessee cannot escape such liability on the strength of the Clarifications/Circulars.

[Source: Commercial Tax Officer vs. Mohan Brewries, decided by Supreme Court on 29th June 2020.]

Note: Contemporanea expositio is a well known doctrine of interpreting a statute by reference to the exposition it has received from contemporary authority.

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