Central Excise, Bangalore Vs. Srikumar Agencies Etc. Etc.  INSC 2026 (27
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.4872-4892 OF 2000 Commnr.
Of Central Excise, Bangalore ...Appellant Versus Srikumar Agencies etc.etc.
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT, J
appeals were placed before a three-Judge Bench because of reference made by a
Division Bench with the following order:
"The point involved
in this batch of appeals is whether the printing on the package is merely
incidental or primary. On this point we find that there are two streams of
judgments of this Court. Therefore, keeping in view the conflict of opinion, on
the point involved in Rollatrainers Ltd. and Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.
(1994 Suppl. (3) SCC
293), Collector of Central Excise, Bombay v. Paper Print & Products Co.
(1997 (10) SCC 564) and Metagraphs Pvt. Ltd. v. Collector of Central Excise,
Bombay (1997 (1) SCC 262), we deem it appropriate that these cases be placed
for hearing before a larger Bench.
Registry is directed
to place the matter before Hon'ble the Chief Justice for appropriate
the appeals were taken up for hearing, Mr. G.E. Vahanvati, learned Solicitor
General pointed out that the Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate
Tribunal, Chennai (in short `CEGAT') disposed of several appeals without
detailed analysis of the factual position involved. It merely referred to some
judgments and submissions of learned counsel for the assessees who are present
respondents to hold that the assessees are entitled to relief. The conclusions
are practically non-reasoned and abrupt conclusions were arrived at to hold
that printing on media was not merely incidental to its primary use but in fact
clearly show the nature of goods contained therein. It is pointed out that five
categories were involved. In the case of respondents -Srikumar agencies the
article involved was Printed Gay Matter and Printed Agarbathi, in the case of
M/s Faxwell Printers the article involved was Printed Gay Wrappers, in the case
of M/s Rajhans Enterprises the article involved was Printed Labels, in the case
of Sree Vijay Industries, it was Printed Agarbathi Labels and in the case of
Regency Printers, it was Printed Labels. The articles were contextually
different. It was also submitted that without detailed anaylsis of the factual
position mere reliance on the decisions was not the proper way to dispose of
the appeals. It is also pointed out that the view expressed by CEGAT even on
facts was contrary to the ratio laid down by this Court in I.T.C. Ltd. v.
Collector of Central Excise, Madras (JT 1998 (8) SC 527).
response, learned counsel for the respondents-assessees submitted that the CEGAT
is the last finding authority. From its varied experience having dealt with
large number of cases, even by visual inspection of the materials it was in a
position to record a conclusion. It is also submitted that the factual scenario
is not different in these cases vis-a-vis those assessees whose cases were the
subject matter of the decisions which have been referred to by CEGAT.
should not place reliance on decisions without discussing as to how the factual
situation fits in with the fact situation of the decision on which reliance is
placed. Observations of Courts are neither to be read as Euclid's theorems nor
as provisions of the statute and that too taken out of their context. These
observations must be read in the context in which they appear to have been
stated. Judgments of Courts are not to be construed as statutes. To interpret
words, phrases and provisions of a statute, it may become necessary for judges
to embark into lengthy discussions but the discussion is meant to explain and
not to define. Judges interpret statutes, they do not interpret judgments. They
interpret words of statutes; their words are not to be interpreted as statutes.
In London Graving Dock Co. Ltd. V. Horton (1951 AC 737 at p.761), Lord Mac
cannot, of course, be settled merely by treating the ipsissima vertra of
Willes, J as though they were part of an Act of Parliament and applying the
rules of interpretation appropriate thereto. This is not to detract from the
great weight to be given to the language actually used by that most
In Home Office v.
Dorset Yacht Co. (1970 (2) All ER 294) Lord Reid said, "Lord Atkin's
speech.....is not to be treated as if it was a statute definition It will
require qualification in new circumstances." Megarry, J in (1971) 1 WLR
1062 observed: "One must not, of course, construe even a reserved judgment
of Russell L.J. as if it were an Act of Parliament." And, in Herrington v.
British Railways Board (1972 (2) WLR 537) Lord Morris said:
"There is always
peril in treating the words of a speech or judgment as though they are words in
a legislative enactment, and it is to be remembered that judicial utterances
made in the setting of the facts of a particular case."
flexibility, one additional or different fact may make a world of difference
between conclusions in two cases. Disposal of cases by blindly placing reliance
on a decision is not proper.
The following words
of Lord Denning in the matter of applying precedents have become locus
depends on its own facts and a close similarity between one case and another is
not enough because even a single significant detail may alter the entire
aspect, in deciding such cases, one should avoid the temptation to decide cases
(as said by Cordozo) by matching the colour of one case against the colour of
another. To decide therefore, on which side of the line a case falls, the broad
resemblance to another case is not at all decisive."
*** *** *** 5
"Precedent should be followed only so far as it marks the path of justice,
but you must cut the dead wood and trim off the side branches else you will
find yourself lost in thickets and branches. My plea is to keep the path to
justice clear of obstructions which could impede it."
the factual position has not been analysed in detail, disposal of appeals by
mere reference to decisions, was not the proper way to deal with the appeals.
The CEGAT also does not appear to have dealt with the relevance and
applicability of ITC's case (supra) on which strong reliance has been placed by
learned Solicitor General. The CEGAT ought to have examined the cases
individually and the articles involved. By clubbing all the cases together and
without analyzing the special features of each case disposing of the appeals in
the manner done was not proper. In the circumstances, we set aside the impugned
judgment in each case and remit the matter to CEGAT presently known as Customs,
Excise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal ( in short `CESTAT') to be dealt
with by the appropriate Bench. In view of the aforesaid order there is no need
to answer the reference made.
the matters are pending since long, we request the CESTAT to dispose of the
appeals as early as possible preferably by the end of February, 2009.
appeals are accordingly disposed of.
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)