The State of Maharashtra Vs Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal

The State of Maharashtra Vs Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal Case

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.7319 OF 2021
The State of Maharashtra        ..Appellant (S)
Versus
Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal & Ors.    ..Respondent (S)
J U D G M E N T 
M. R. Shah, J.
1. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
judgment and order dated 28.02.2019 passed by the High
Court of Judicature at Bombay in Writ Petition No.2961 of
2018, by which the High Court has allowed the said writ
petition   preferred   by   respondents   No.1   to   10   herein   ­
original writ petitioners (hereinafter referred to as original
writ petitioners – education institutions) and held that the
original   writ   petitioners   are   exempted   from   payment   of
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electricity duty, the State of Maharashtra has preferred the
present appeal. 
2. That   the   original   writ   petitioners   are   the   education
institutions   run   and   manage   by   original   writ   petitioner
No.1 – Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal, a society registered
under   the   Societies   Registration   Act,   1860   and   also   a
public charitable trust registered under the Maharashtra
Public  Trusts  Act, 1950. That  the  writ petitioners  have
taken   electricity   connections   for   power   supply   to   their
education   institutions   from   respective   power   supply
companies.   That   prior   to   01.09.2016,   the   charitable
education   institutions   were   exempted   from   payment   of
electricity duty levied on the consumption charges or the
energy consumption for the purposes of or in respect of a
school   or   college   or   institution   imparting   education   or
training, students' hostels, hospitals, nursing homes etc.
as per Section 3(2)(iii) of the Maharashtra Electricity Duty
Act, 1958. That in the year 2018, the respective electricity
supply companies levied the electricity duty pursuant to a
letter from the Industries, Energy and Labour Department,
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Government   of   Maharashtra   stating   that   as   per
Maharashtra Electricity Act, 2016, charitable institutions
registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950 (now
known as Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950)  for the
purpose   of   or   in   respect   of   school   or   college   imparting
education or training in academic or technical subjects are
not entitled for electricity duty exemption with effect from
1st   September,   2016.   The   respective   power   supply
companies levied electricity duty at 21% and the bills were
raised accordingly on  original  writ  petitioners and  their
education   institutions   for   the   period   post   01.09.2016.
Aggrieved by the levy of electricity duty on the educational
charitable institutions run by the original writ petitioner
No.1   –  respondent   No.1   herein,   original  writ   petitioners
preferred the writ petition before the High Court. By the
impugned judgment and order, the Division Bench of the
High Court has allowed the said writ petition and has set
aside the levy of electricity duty on writ petitioners and
consequently   has   set   aside   respective   electricity   bills
levying the electricity duty on consumption of electricity
charge.      
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3. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
judgment and order passed by the High Court, the State of
Maharashtra has preferred the present appeal.
4. Shri Sachin Patil, learned counsel appearing on behalf of
the State has vehemently submitted that in the facts and
circumstances of the case, the High Court has committed a
grave error in holding that the original writ petitioners –
charitable education institutions are not liable to pay the
electricity duty.    
4.1 It is further submitted that in absence of challenge to the
relevant   provisions   of   the   Maharashtra   Electricity   Act,
2016, the High Court ought not to have allowed the writ
petition   and   ought   not   to   have   set   aside   the   levy   of
electricity   duty   levied   from   charitable   education
institutions like the original writ petitioners. 
4.2 It   is   further   submitted   by   Shri   Sachin   Patil,   learned
counsel appearing on behalf of the State that the High
Court   has   not   properly   appreciated   and   considered   the
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relevant   provisions   pre   and   post   the   Maharashtra
Electricity Act, 2016. 
4.3 It   is   submitted   that   as   per   Section   3(2)(a)(iiia)   of   the
Maharashtra   Electricity   Duty   Act,   1958,   the   charitable
intuitions registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act,
for   the   purpose   of,   or   in   respect   of,   school   or   college,
imparting education or training in academic or technical
subjects (save in respect of premises used for residential
purposes) were exempted from levy of the electricity duty
on   the   consumption   charges   or   the   units   of   energy
consumed. It is submitted that however, on enactment of
the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016 which repealed
the earlier the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 1958, no
such exemption from levy/payment of electricity duty has
been provided to such charitable education institutions.
4.4 It is submitted that the High Court has failed to consider
there is no provision, similar to the Repealed Act of 1958
(the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 1958) in the new
Act, 2016 (Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016), and
the   charitable   education   institutions   whether   registered
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before or after coming into the new Act of 2016, are not
entitled to the exemption from payment of electricity duty.
4.5 It   is   further   submitted   that   the   High   Court   has   not
properly appreciated or considered that by virtue of the
statutory provisions under the Repealed Act of 1958, the
charitable education institutions were enjoying concession
from   payment   electricity   consumption   duty/   electricity
consumption charges and therefore there was no need to
issue a specific order in their favour under the Repealed
Act of 1958. It is submitted that therefore, if any order had
been issued by the department in favour of any institution,
it is neither an order as contemplated under Repealed Act,
1958   nor   it   is   saved   from   proviso   of   Section   4   of   the
Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016. It is submitted
that therefore, after commencement of the new Act of 2016,
such   order   does   not   confer   right   upon   the   charitable
education institutions to claim exemption.
4.6 It is further submitted that as such the language used in
the new Act of 2016 with respect to the exemption/levy of
electricity   duty   is   very   clear   and   unambiguous.   It   is
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submitted that the words used are plain and simple and
therefore the same should be read with the intention of the
legislature particularly in favour of revenue. It is submitted
that as per the law laid down by this Court in catena of
decisions a taxing statute is to be construed in favour of
assesse but an exception or an exemption provision from a
taxing statute has to be construed strictly. It is submitted
that even if there is any ambiguity in that regard the issue
must be answered in favour of revenue. 
4.7 In   support   of   the   above   submissions,   learned   counsel
appearing on behalf of the State has relied on the following
decisions of this Court:­  Commr.   of   Customs   Vs.  Dilip
Kumar   &   Co.,  (2018)   9   SCC   1;  Central   Public
Information   Officer,  Supreme   Court   of   India   Vs.
Subhash   Chandra   Agarwal,  (2020)   5   SCC   481;  Essar
Steel   India   Ltd.   &   Anr.   Vs.   State   of   Gujarat   &   Anr.,
(2017)   8   SCC   357;  Star   Industries   Vs.   Commr.   of
Customs   (Imports),  (2016)   2   SCC   362;  Giridhar   G.
Yadalam  Vs.  Commissioner  of  Wealth  Tax  &  Another,
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(2015) 17 SCC 664;  Godrej  &  Boyce  Mfg.  Co.  Ltd.  Vs.
Deputy  Commissioner  of  Income  Tax  &  Anr.,  (2017) 7
SCC 421.
5. Making the above submissions and relying on the aforesaid
decisions of this Court, it is prayed to allow the present
appeal and quash and set aside the impugned judgment
and order passed by the High Court.
6. The present appeal is vehemently opposed by Shri Shekhar
Naphade, learned Senior Advocate, appearing on behalf of
the   original   writ   petitioners   –   respondents   No.1   to   10
herein. 
6.1 It   is   vehemently   submitted   by   Shri   Shekhar   Naphade,
learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the original
writ petitioners that in the facts and circumstances of the
case   and   considering   the   fact   that   the   original   writ
petitioners are charitable education institutions, the High
Court   has   rightly   held   that   they   are   exempted   from
payment of electricity duty. 
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6.2 It is submitted by Shri Naphade, learned Senior Advocate
appearing on behalf of the original writ petitioners that as
observed by this Court in the case of C.W.S. (India) Ltd.
Vs.  Commissioner  of   Income   Tax,  1994 Supp (2) SCC
296 (para 10), where a literal interpretation leads to absurd
result, the wording of the statute can be modified to accord
with the intention of the legislature and to avoid absurdity.
6.3 It is submitted that if the interpretation canvassed by the
state is accepted then it will lead to absurdity and manifest
injustice as school/colleges etc. run by the local authority
will fall within the purview of Section 3(2)(iii) of 2016 Act,
while those run by the statutory university or charitable
institution registered under Bombay Trusts Act, 1950 (now
known as Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950), would fall
outside the ambit of Section 3(2)(iii). It is submitted that as
such   there   is   no   essential   difference   between
schools/colleges   etc.   run   by   the   statutory   university   or
institution registered under the Maharashtra Public Trusts
Act,   1950   and   those   run   by   the   local   authority.   It   is
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submitted that such absurdity or injustice cannot be the
intention of the legislature. 
6.4 It is further submitted by Shri Naphade, learned Senior
Advocate   appearing   on   behalf   of   the   original   writ
petitioners that there is always a presumption that the
legislature   does   not   intend   to   violate   Article   14   of   the
Constitution of India. It is submitted that as per the case
on behalf of the State, Section 3(2)(iii) of 2016 Act covers
only schools/colleges etc. of the local authority and those
run by the statutory university or by private institutions
are outside the scope of Section 3(2)(iii) of 2016 Act. It is
submitted   that   this   would   lead   to   discrimination   and
arbitrariness.   It   is   submitted   that   who   runs   the
educational institution cannot be the intelligible differentia
for the purpose of classification. It is submitted that if such
an interpretation is accepted then Section 3(2)(iii) would be
ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution. It is submitted
that while interpreting Section 3(2)(iii) of 2016 Act, Article
14   must   be  considered   and   interpretation   which   would
accord with the mandate of Article 14 should be adopted.
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Reliance is placed on the decision of this Court in the case
of B.R. Enterprises Vs. State of U.P. & Ors., (1999) 9 SCC
700 (para 81). 
6.5 It   is   further   submitted   that   even   otherwise   there   is
presumption   that   legislature   does   not   make   radical
changes in existing law. Reliance is placed on the decision
of this Court in the case of Byram Pestonji Gariwala Vs.
Union Bank of India & Ors.,  (1992) 1 SCC 31 (para 29­
38). 
It is submitted that it is not in dispute that Section 3(2)
(iii a) of 1958 Act clearly provided that the electricity duty
shall   not   be   imposed   on   schools/colleges   etc.   run   by
charitable institutions registered under the Maharashtra
Public Trusts Act, 1950. It is submitted that there is no
dispute that the schools/colleges etc. of the writ petitioners
fall within the purview the purview of Section 3(2)(iii a) of
1958 Act. It is submitted that therefore there is nothing in
2016   Act   which   warrants   a   conclusion   that   there   is   a
radical change in law leading to duty being imposed on the
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educational   institutions   being   run   by   the   original   writ
petitioner.   
6.6 Pointing out the following aspects, it is submitted by Shri
Naphade learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of
the  original  writ  petitioners,  that  as  such  there  are  no
radical changes between the Maharashtra Electricity Duty
Act, 1958 (1958 Act) and the Maharashtra Electricity Duty
Act, 2016 (2016 Act). It is submitted that under Section
3(2) of 1958 Act, no duty could be imposed on the following
entities:­
(a) Government of Maharashtra [Section 3(2)(i)]
(b) Local authorities carrying on specified activities
[Section 3(2)(ia)]
(c) Licensee carrying on specified activities [Section
3(2)(ib)]
(d) Tramway company [Section 3(2)(ii)]
(e) Entity generating electricity for the purpose of
supplying it for the use of vehicles and vessels.
[Section 3(2)(iv)]
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Note­ under 1958 Act no duty could be imposed on
the Central Government due to the provisions of
Article 285 of the Constitution.    
6.6.1 It is further submitted that under Section 3(2) of 2016 Act
no duty can be imposed on the following entities:­
(a) State Government [Section 3(2)(i)]
(b) Central Government [Section 3(2) (ii)]
This is by way abundant caution as no duty can be
imposed on the Central Government due to Article
285 of the Constitution. 
(c) Licensee carrying on specified activities. [Section 3(2)
(v)]
(d) Generating Company [Section 3(2)(vi)]
(e) Entity generating electricity for use of vehicles and
vessels [Section 3(2)(vii)]
Note – At present there is Tramway company in the
State of Maharashtra. Thus there is no change in
2016 Act as regards the entities who are not subject
to imposition of duty.   
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6.6.2 Further, under Section 3(2) of the 1958 Act no duty could
be imposed on following activities:­  
(a) Educational   institutions   run   by   local   authority   or
statutory university, or charitable institution registered
under Bombay Trusts Act, 1950. [Section 3(2)(ia), 3(2)
(iii) and 3(2)(iiia)]
(b) Local authority using electricity for hospital, nursing
home, dispensary, clinic, public street lighting, public
water   works,   system   of   public   sewers   or   drains.
[Section 3(2)(ia)]
(c) Use   of   electricity   by   licensee   for   the   purpose   of
construction,   maintenance,   or   operation   of   any
generating,   transmitting   and   distributing   system.
[Section 3(2)(ib)]
(d) Generation of electricity for the purpose of supplying it
for the use of vehicles or vessels. [Section 3(2)(iv)]
(e) Where   the   energy   is   generated   at   a   voltage   not
exceeding 100 volts. [Section 3(2)(v)]   
6.7 It is submitted that both under the 1958 Act and 2016 Act,
the premises used by entities specified under Section 3(2)
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for the purpose of residence are subject to imposition of
duty. 
6.8 It is submitted that aforesaid analysis clearly shows that
the   entities   on   whom   no   duty   can   be   imposed   have
remained the same subject to the rider that if the premises
are used for residence, duty can be imposed. 
6.9 It   is   submitted   that   the   only   question   is   whether
educational   activities   carried   on   by   local   authorities,
statutory university or a charitable institution registered
under the Bombay Trusts Act, 1950 are within the purview
of Section 3(2) of the 2016 Act?
6.10 It is submitted that it is not in dispute that under the 1958
Act,   the   educational   institutions   carried   out   by   local
authorities,   statutory   university,   or   the   charitable
institutions were not subject to imposition of duty. The
other   activities   which   are   not   subject   to   imposition   of
electricity duty, both under the 1958 Act and 2016 Act are
as follows:­ 
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(a)   Specified activities by local authorities [See Section
3(2)(ia) of 1958 Act Section 3(2)(iii) of 2016 Act. 
(b) Generation of electricity for construction, maintenance
and   operation   of   any   generating,   transmitting   and
distrusting system by licensee. [See Section 3(2)(ib) of
1958 Act and Section 3(2)(v) of 2016 Act. 
(c) Generation of electricity for the purpose of supplying
for the use of vehicles or vessels [See Section 3(2)(iv) of
1958 Act and Section 3(2) (vii) of 2016 Act. 
(d) Generation of electricity at a voltage not exceeding 100
volts [See Section 3(2)(v) of the 1958 Act and Section
3(2)(viii) of 2016 Act.      
6.11 It is submitted that thus entities who are not subject to
imposition of duty have remained the same, both under
1958   Act   and   2016   Act   and   that   other   activities
enumerated herein above have remained same, both under
1958 Act and 2016 Act. It is submitted that therefore, it is
difficult to accept that in respect of educational activities a
radical change is brought about by 2016 Act by excluding
educational institutions run by statutory university or by
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charitable institutions. It is submitted that either it is a
case of Casus Omissus or a case of bad drafting of 2016
Act. 
6.12 It is submitted that 1958 Act clearly indicates that it was
the   policy   of   the   legislature   to   exclude   the   educational
activities run by specified entities from imposition of duty.
There is nothing in the 2016 Act which would indicate that
there   is   a   radical   departure   in   respect   of   educational
activities. Some of the activities which are not subject to
imposition of duty both under the 1958 Act and 2016 Act
are commercial in nature. It is submitted that therefore if
that be so then why the legislature would depart from its
earlier   policy   in   respect   of   educational   activities   as
promotion of education is in public interest. It is submitted
that   if   the   commercial   activities   are   not   subject   to
imposition of duty then it would be unreasonable on the
part of the legislature to impose duty on non­commercial
activity of imparting education. It is submitted that policy
of the legislature is presumed to be reasonable so that it
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does   not   fall   foul   principle   of   unreasonableness   or
arbitrariness. 
       
6.13 Lastly,   it  is  submitted  by  Shri   Naphade   learned   Senior
Advocate appearing on behalf of the writ petitioners, that in
the present case the doctrine of last antecedent may also
be applied. It is submitted that first part of Section 3(2)
covers all educational activities irrespective of the entity
which carries on such activities. It is submitted that in the
1958 Act in Section 3(2), the following words used are “for
the   purposes   of   or   in   respect   of   school   …….   Students
hostel” and in the second part of Section 3(2) deals with
activities carried on by the local authorities. It is submitted
that in the 2016 Act, the expression “Run by any local
bodies……State   of   Maharashtra”   does   not   qualify   the
educational   activities   but   it   qualifies   activities   namely
“Hospitals,   nursing   homes…….a   part   of   system”.   It   is
submitted that if the doctrine of Last Antecedent is applied
to the present case, the only possible conclusion is that the
expression   “Run   by   any   local   bodies”   does   not   qualify
educational activities referred to in first part of Section 3(2)
but qualifies the second part i.e. the other activities.
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6.14 It is further submitted that Electricity Duty Act is a taxing
statute. Therefore, it must be strictly construed and if there
is any ambiguity the same must be resolved in favour of
the assessee. The legislature is covering all educational
activities   in   one   provision   contained   in   Section   3(2)(iii)
irrespective of the entity which carries on the activities.
While doing so the ambiguity has crept in drafting.  It is
submitted that the benefit of ambiguity must lean in favour
of the assessee rather than the revenue.                   
6.15 Making the above submissions and relying on the decisions
of this Court, it is prayed to dismiss the present appeal. 
7. We have heard the learned counsel appearing on behalf of
the respective parties at length.
8. The short question which is posed for the consideration of
this Court is whether the original writ petitioners being
charitable   education   institutions   registered   under   the
provisions of the Public Trusts Act (the Maharashtra Public
Trusts   Act,   1950)   are   entitled   to   the   exemption   from
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payment of electricity duty post 01.09.2016 i.e. as per the
provisions of the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016? 
9. While answering the aforesaid question/issue, law on how
to interpret and/or consider the statutory provisions in the
taxing statute and the exemption notifications is required
to be analysed first.
9.1 In the case of Dilip Kumar & Company (supra), five­judge
bench of this Court has held that in every taxing statute ––
the charging, the computation and exemption provisions at
the threshold stage should be interpreted strictly. In case
of   ambiguity   in   case   of   charging   provision,   the   benefit
necessarily must go into favour of the subject/assessee.
This means that the subject of tax, the person liable to pay
tax and the rate at which the tax is to be levied have to be
interpreted and construed strictly. If there is any ambiguity
in any of these three components, no tax can be levied till
the ambiguity or defect was removed by the legislature [See
pages 53 to 55 in Dilip Kumar & Company]. However, in
case of exemption notification or clause, same is to be
allowed based wholly by the language of the notification,
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and   exemption   cannot   be   gathered   by   necessary
implication, or on a construction different from the words
used by reference to the object and purpose of granting
exemption   [See  Hansraj   Gordhandas   Vs.   H.H.   Dave,
Assistant Collector of Central Excise Customs, Surat &
Ors.,  AIR 1970 SC  755]. Further it’s for the assessee to
show by construction of the exemption clause/notification
that   it   comes   within   the   purview   of   exemption.   The
assessee/citizen   cannot   rely   on   ambiguity   or   doubt   to
claim benefit of exemption. The rationale is not to widen
the ambit at the stage of applicability. However, once the
hurdle is crossed, the notification is constructed liberally
[See  Collector  of  Central  Excise,  Bombay­I  &  Anr.  vs.
Parle Exports (P) Ltd., (1989) 1 SCC 345 and Union of
India & Ors. vs. Wood Papers Ltd. & Anr., (1998) 4 SCC
256].   Thus,   distinction   can   be   made   between   the
substantive requirements that require strict compliance –
non­compliance   of   which   would   render   the   assessee
ineligible   to   claim   exemption,   and   the   procedural   or
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compliance   provision   which   can   be   interpreted   liberally
[See paragraphs 64 to 65 in Dilip Kumar & Company].
9.2 Essar Steel India Ltd. & Anr. was a case relating to grant
of   exemption   under   Section   3(2)(vii)(a)   from   payment   of
electricity duty under the 1958 Act. The court relied on
several decisions on interpretation of notification in nature
of   exemption,   to   hold   that   the   statutory   conditions   for
grant   of   exemption   can   neither   be   tinkered   with   nor
diluted. The exemption notification must be interpreted by
their own wordings, and where the wordings of notification
with regard the construction is clear, it has to be given
effect to. If on the wordings of the notification benefit is not
available,   then   the   court   would   not   grant   benefit   by
stretching the words of the notification or by adding words
to the notification. To interpret the exemption notification
one should go by the clear, unambiguous wordings thereof.
These principles were applied in Essar Steel India Ltd. &
Anr. to deny benefit of Section 3(2)(vii)(a) of the 1958 Act,
as the condition of generating energy jointly with another
undertaking was not fulfilled.
22
9.3 In case of Star Industries, it was held that the eligibility
criteria laid down for exemption notification is required to
be construed strictly, and once it is found that applicant
satisfies the same, the exemption notification should be
construed liberally. Reference was made to the decision
Novopan   India  Ltd.  vs.  CCE  and  Customs,  1994  Supp
(3)   SCC   606  and   the   Constitution   Bench   decision   in
Hansraj Gordhandas vs. H.H. Dave, Assistant Collector
of Central Excise Customs, Surat & Ors.  (supra), which
decisions have been noted and elucidated by this Court in
Dilip   Kumar   &   Company.   Therefore,   in   the   context   of
exemption   notification   there   is   no   new   room   for
intendment. Regard must be to the clear meaning of the
words.   Claim   to   exemption   is   governed   wholly   by   the
language of the notification, which means by plain terms of
the exemption clause. An assessee cannot claim benefit of
exemption, on the principle that in case of ambiguity a
taxing   statue   must   be   construed   in   his   favour,   for   an
exception   or   exemption   provision   must   be   construed
strictly.
23
9.4 In the case of Giridhar G. Yadalam (supra), it is observed
and held that in taxing statute, it is the plain language of
the provision that has to be preferred where language is
plain and is capable of one definite meaning. It is further
observed that the  strict interpretation  to  the  exemption
provision   is   to   be   accorded.   It   is   observed   that   the
purposive interpretation can be given only when there is
some ambiguity in the language of the statutory provision
or   it   leads   to   absurd   results.   In   paragraph   16,   it   is
observed and held as under:­
“16. We   have   already   pointed   out   that   on   the
plain language of the provision in question, the
benefit of the said clause would be applicable
only in respect of the building “which has been
constructed”.   The   expression   “has   been
constructed” obviously cannot include within its
sweep a building which is not fully constructed
or in the process of construction. The opening
words of clause (ii) also become important in this
behalf, where it is stated that “the land occupied
by any building”. The land cannot be treated to
be occupied by a building where it is still under
construction.   If   the   contention   of   Mr   Jain   is
accepted, an assessee would become entitled to
the   benefit   of   the   said   clause,   at   that   very
moment,   the   commencement   of   construction
even with construction the moment one brick is
laid.   It   would   be   too   far­fetched,   in   such   a
situation, to say that the land stands occupied
by a building that has been constructed thereon.
24
Even Mr Jain was candid in accepting that when
the construction of building is still going on and
is not completed, literally speaking, it cannot be
said that the building “has been constructed”. It
is for this reason that he wanted us to give the
benefit of this provision even in such cases by
reading the expression to mean the same as “is
being constructed”. His submission was that the
moment construction starts the urban land is
put to “productive use” and that entitles the land
from exemption of wealth tax. This argument of
giving so­called purposive interpretation has to
be rejected for more than one reasons. These are:
(i) In taxing statute, it is the plain language of the
provision   that   has   to   be   preferred   where
language is plain and is capable of one definite
meaning.
(ii)   Strict   interpretation   to   the   exemption
provision is to be accorded, which is the case at
hand.
(iii)   The   purposive   interpretation   can   be   given
only   when   there   is   some   ambiguity   in   the
language of the statutory provision or it leads to
absurd results. We do not find it to be so in the
present case.”
9.5 In the case of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.  (supra), it is
observed and held by this Court that where the words of
the statute are clear and unambiguous, recourse cannot be
had to principles of interpretation other than the literal
view. It is further observed that it is the bounden duty and
obligation of the court to interpret the statute as it is. It is
25
further   observed   that   it   is   contrary   to   all   rules   of
construction   to   read   words   into   a   statute   which   the
legislature in its wisdom has deliberately not incorporated.
10. Applying the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid
decisions to the facts of the case on hand, it is required to
be considered whether post 01.09.2016 and on coming into
force the 2016 Act, still, the writ petitioners – charitable
education institutions registered under the Public Trusts
Act and or the Societies Registration Act are entitled to the
exemption from payment of electricity duty?
11. For   the   aforesaid   purpose,   the   charging
sections/exemption provisions under the pre Act of 2016
and post Act of 2016 are required to be referred to. Section
3 of the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 1958, which was
applicable prior to coming into force of the Maharashtra
Electricity Duty Act, 2016, relevant for our purpose reads
as under:­
“3. (1) Subject to the provisions of sub­section
(2), there shall be levied and paid to the State
Government   on   the   1[consumption   charges   or
the] units of energy consumed (excluding losses
of   energy   sustained   in   transmission   and
26
transformation by a licensee before supply to a
consumer),   a   duty   (hereinafter   referred   to   as"
electricity   duty")   at   the   rates   specified   in   the
Schedule to this Act. 
(2) (a) Electricity duty shall not be leviable on the
3[consumption charges or the] units of energy
consumed,— 
(i) by the Government of Maharashtra (save in
respect   of   premises   used   for   residential
purposes); 
(ia)   by   or   in   a   respect   of   any   municipal
corporation, municipality, municipal committee,
town   committee,   notified   area   committee,
Cantonment   Board,   Zilla   Parishad   or   village
panchyat constituted under any law for the time
being in force in the State, for the purpose of, or
in   respect   of  5
[   a   school   or   college   imparting
education or training in academic or technical
subjects, a hospital, nursing home, dispensary,
clinic, public street lighting, public water works
and system of public sewers or drains (save in
respect   of   premises   used   for   residential
purposes); 
(ib)   by   any   licensee   for   purposes   directly
connected   with   construction,   maintenance   or
operation   of   any   generating,   transmitting   and
distributing system of the licensee;  
(ii) by a tramway company, save in respect of
premises   used   for   residential   and   office
purposes; 
(iii) by or in respect of any statutory University
and institutions run by the statutory University
for the purpose of or in  respect  of  education,
research   and   training   (save   in   respect   of
premises used for residential purposes); 
27
(iiia)   by   or   in   respect   of   charitable   institution
registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act,
1950, for the purpose of, or in respect of, school
or   college   imparting   education   or   training   in
academic or technical subjects (save in respect of
premises used for residential purposes);”
That thereafter the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016
has   been   enacted,   which   has   come   into   effect   from
08.08.2016. Section 3 of the 2016 Act, relevant for our
purpose reads as under:­   
“3. (1) Subject to the provisions of sub­section
(2), there shall be levied and paid to the State
Government, on the consumption charges or the
units  of   energy  consumed,  a   duty   (hereinafter
referred   to   as   “Electricity   Duty”)   at   the   rates
classified   as   per   the   Tariff   Schedule   of   the
Commission, from time to time, on the basis of
use of the premises by the consumer on whose
name energy is supplied by the licensee, or a
consumer   who   is   consuming   energy   produced
from   an   independent   source   other   than   that
supplied   by   the   licensee,   for   his   own   use   as
specified in the Schedules, which are based on
the following classifications :––
(a) the consumption charges where energy is
supplied by the licensee;
Explanation.––   For   the   purpose   of   this   subsection, “use of the premises by the consumer
on whose name energy is supplied” means the
basis of purpose for which the consumer in
whose   name   supply   has   been   released   and
measured by the meter installed at point of
supply   by   the   licensee,   on   which   the
consumption   charges   are   billed   as   per   the
28
tariff,   however,   in   huge   industrial   parks,
commercial premises or malls where electricity
is   supplied   at   single   point   or   as   bulk
consumers and further it is re­distributed as
one of the utility service provided by the owner
of the premises to the end users occupying the
area   on   lease   or   rent   or   otherwise,   whose
purpose of use of electricity at the user’s end
may vary categorically;
(b) units of energy consumed by a person and
energy produced through the– 
(i) Captive generation; 
(ii) Co­generation;
(iii) Standby generation; 
(iv) Renewable Energy; or 
(v) Independent Power Producer (IPP);
(c) units of energy consumed which are not
covered under clauses (a) and (b), that is, open
access or other sources.
(2)   Electricity   duty   shall   not   be   levied   on   the
consumption charges or energy consumed,––
(i)   by   the   State   Government   excluding   the
public undertakings; 
(ii) by the Central Government excluding the
public undertakings; 
(iii)   for   the   purposes   of,   or   in   respect   of   a
school   or   college   or   institution   imparting
education   or   training,   student’s,   hostels,
hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, clinics,
public   streets   lighting,   public   water   works,
sewerage   systems,   public   gardens   including
zoos,   public   museums,  administrative  offices
forming whole or, as the case may be, a part of
system   run   by   any   local   bodies   constituted
29
under any law for the time being in force in the
State of Maharashtra; 
(iv) by the Government hostels; 
(v)   by   any   licensee,   or   by   any   other   person
engaged in the business of supplying electricity
to the public under the Electricity Act, for the
purposes directly connected with construction,
maintenance,   operation   of   any   transmitting
and distributing system, including the losses
incurred therein;”
11.1 As per Section 16 of the 2016 Act, on coming into force the
2016 Act, the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 1958 stood
repealed subject to the eventualities mentioned in Section
16 of the 2016 Act. None of the eventuality mentioned in
proviso to Section 16 shall be attracted and/or applicable
to the facts of the case on hand in view of the specific
provisions providing for exemption from payment of the
electricity duty as per sub­section (2) of Section 3 of the
2016 Act.   Therefore, for the purpose of exemption from
payment of electricity duty on and after 01.09.2016, subsection (2) of Section 3 of the 2016 Act shall have to be
applied and shall be applicable. 
11.2 As per sub­section (2) of Section 3 of the 1958 Act, the
electricity   duty   was   not   leviable   on   the   consumption
30
charges or the units of energy consumed…………..by or in
respect   of   charitable   institution   registered   under   the
Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950, for the purpose of, or in
respect of, school or college imparting education or training
in   academic   or   technical   subjects   (save   in   respect   of
premises used for residential purposes) [Section 3(2)(iiia)].
Therefore, under the 1958 Act, the electricity duty was not
leviable on the consumption charges or the units of energy
consumed by or in respect of charitable institutions for the
purpose; in respect of school or college imparting education
or training in academic or technical subjects. Even as per
Section 3(2)(ia), electricity duty shall not be leviable on the
consumption charges or the units of energy consumed by
or in a respect of any municipal corporation, municipality,
municipal   committee,   town   committee,   notified   area
committee,   Cantonment   Board,   Zilla   Parishad   or   village
panchyat constituted under any law for the time being in
force in the State, for the purpose of, or in respect of a
school   or   college   imparting   education   or   training   in
academic or technical subjects, a hospital, nursing home,
dispensary,   clinic,   public   street   lighting,   public   water
31
works   and   system   of   public   sewers   or   drains   (save   in
respect of premises used for residential purposes. 
11.3 However, there are material changes under the 2016 Act.
As   per   Section   3(2)   of   the   2016   Act,   even   the   public
undertakings are liable to pay the electricity duty. As per
Section   3(2)(iii),   electricity   duty   is   not   leviable   on   the
consumption   charges   or   energy   consumed,   for   the
purposes   of,   or   in   respect   of   a   school   or   college   or
institution   imparting   education   or   training,   student’s,
hostels,   hospitals,   nursing   homes,   dispensaries,   clinics,
public   streets   lighting,   public   water   works,   sewerage
systems, public gardens including zoos, public museums,
administrative offices forming whole or, as the case may
be, a part of system run by any local bodies constituted
under any law for the time being in force in the State of
Maharashtra. Therefore, Section 3(2)(iiia), which was there
in 1958 Act, is now conspicuously and deliberately absent
in Section 3(2) of the 2016 Act.   
11.4 On true interpretation of Section 3(2)(iii), under 2016 Act,
electricity duty on the consumption of charges or energy
32
consumed for the purposes of, or in respect of a school or
college   or   institution   imparting   education   or   training,
student’s,   hostels………….run   by   any   local   bodies   shall
alone be exempted from levy of electricity duty and the
State   Government   and   Central   Government   are   also
specifically   excluded   from   payment   of   electricity   duty.
However, the public sector undertakings are not exempted
from payment of electricity Act. Therefore, under Section
3(2) of the 2016 Act, the charitable institutions running the
educational institutions are not exempted from payment of
electricity duty, which as such was specifically exempted
under Section 3(2)(iiia) of the 1958 Act. The language and
words used in Section 3(2) are plain and simple and are
capable   of   only   one   definite   meaning   that   there   is   no
exemption   provided   under   the   2016   Act   from   levy     of
electricity   duty   so   far   as   the   charitable   education
institutions   are   concerned.   As   observed   herein   above,
where   the   words  are   clear   and   unambiguous,   recourse
cannot be had to principles of interpretation other than the
literal   view.   As   observed   hereinabove,   the   exemption
provision   need   to   be   interpreted   literally   and   when   the
33
language used in exemption provision is simple, clear and
unambiguous,   the   same   has   to   be   applied  rigorously,
strictly   and   literally.   Under   the   2016   Act,   charitable
education institutions running the schools or colleges are
specifically excluded from the exemption clause/exemption
provision – Section 3(2). 
12. If the submissions on behalf of the original writ petitioners
is accepted that as per Section 3(2)(iii), with respect to all
the schools/colleges or institutions, imparting education or
training, the electricity duty is not leviable, in that case it
would lead to absurd result. In that case, even the private
hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries and clinics, who
are profit making entities shall also claim the exemption
from levy of electricity duty. The intention of the legislature
as   per   Section   3(2)   of   the   2016   Act,   is   very   clear   and
unambiguous that the electricity duty shall not be leviable
on the consumption charges or energy consumed (i) by the
State   Government   excluding   the   public   sector
undertakings;   (ii)   by   the   Central   Government   excluding
public sector undertakings and (iii) ……. run by the local
34
bodies constituted under any law for the time being in
force in the State of Maharashtra. Other than the State
Government, Central Government and the local bodies and
the Government hostels, no exemption from payment of
electricity duty has been provided.    
13. In view of the above findings recorded hereinabove, there is
no question of applying the doctrine of Last Antecedents as
canvassed   by   Shri   Naphade,   learned   Senior   Advocate,
appearing on behalf of the original writ petitioners.       
14. In that view of the above the original writ petitioners –
charitable   education   institutions   registered   under   the
provisions of the Societies Registration Act and/or under
the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, are not entitled to any
exemption from levy/payment of the electricity duty on or
after   08.08.2016   i.e.   from   the   date   on   which   the
Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016 came into effect.
Therefore, the High Court has committed a grave error in
setting   aside   the   levy   of   electricity   duty   levied   on   the
original writ petitioners – respondents No.1 to 10 herein.
The impugned judgment and order passed by the High
35
Court is unsustainable both, on law and on facts and the
same deserves to be dismissed.
15. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the
present   Appeal   Succeeds.   The   impugned   judgment   and
order dated 28.02.2019 passed by the High Court in W.P.
No.2961 of 2018, is hereby quashed and set aside and it is
held that the original writ petitioners – respondents No.1 to
10   herein   –   charitable   education   institutions   registered
under the Societies Registration Act and the Maharashtra
Public Trusts Act, are not exempt from levy/payment of
electricity duty levied on the consumption charges or the
energy consumed even with respect to the properties used
by such charitable education institutions for the purpose of
or in respect of the school/college imparting education or
training  in   academic   or  technical   subjects.   The  present
Appeal is accordingly allowed. There shall be no order as to
costs.              
…………………………………J.
              (M. R. SHAH)
…………………………………J.
 (SANJIV KHANNA)
New Delhi, 
January 07, 2022.
36

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