Enterprises Vs. Coffee Board  INSC 382 (7 December 1990)
Rangnath (Cj) Misra, Rangnath (Cj) Sawant, P.B. Ramaswamy, K.
1991 AIR 403 1990 SCR Supl. (3) 495 1991 SCC Supl. (2) 441 JT 1990 (4) 723 1990
Act, 1942/Coffee Rules, 1955: Auction sale--Terms and conditions--Clause
10-increase or reduction in duty within 45 days from date of auction--Equally
shared by purchasers and Coffee Board--Date of auction----Whether includible
within the 45 days.
appellants, exporters under the provisions of the Coffee Act, 1942 and Coffee
Rules, 1955 used to participate in the auction conducted by Respondent Board
and purchase coffee for export. The terms and conditions of the auction sale
are fixed by the Board. In respect of an auction held on 18.5.1977, some
dispute arose on the interpretation of clause 10 of the terms and conditions.
As per this clause, any increase or reduction in duty effected within 45 days
from the date of the auction inclusive of that date was to be shared equally
between the Respondent Board and the auction purchasers, with a view to fixing
the reserve price below which the specific lot of coffee was not to be sold at
the auction was held on 18.5.1977, the Respondent Board took into consideration
the duty which existed till 17.5.1977. However, on 18.5.1977, the date on which
the auction was held, there was a reduction in duty. thereafter, the
Respondent-Board sent a circular to all the registered exporters demanding
refund of the proportionate amount of reduced duty as per clause 10 of the
terms and conditions.
the exporters including the appellants refunded 50% of the reduction in the
duty. After making the payment, the appellants wrote to the Respondent-Board
asking for the return of the amount so paid on the ground that since there was
already a reduction in duty on the date of the auction, it cannot be said that
there was a reduction in duty within 45 days from the date of auction. The
Respondent-Board refused to refund the amount, as according to it, the reduc- tion
in duty was effected on 18.5.1977 by the authorities and neither the
Respondent-Board nor the purchasers were aware of the same at the time of the
auction, and that the date of auction was includible within the period of 45
days mentioned in clause 10.
The appellants filed Writ Petitions in the High Court seeking direction to the
Respondent-Board to repay the amount paid by them. The Writ Petitions were
dismissed by a Single Judge on the ground of maintainability. He also held that
since 45 days were to be counted including the day of auction, the
Respondent-Board was entitled to proportionate reduction in duty. The Division
Bench confirmed the same.
the appellants preferred appeals by special leave.
the appeals, this Court,
1. An increase or reduction in duty made on the day of auction is also
shareable between the parties. The purpose of including the day of auction in
the period of 45 days, contrary to the manner of computation of time in the
General Clauses Act, is obvious and is brought home more prominently by the
present instance itself. [501B-D]
Clause 10 of the Terms and Conditions categorically states that any increase or
reduction in taxes, duties etc.
45 days of the auction (inclusive of the day of the auction) shall he shared
between the auction purchasers and the Respondent-Board. Neither the Board nor
any of the auction purchasers was aware of the reduction in export duty for
which a communication was issued on 18th May, 1977 the date of auction itself. The
board had fixed the reserve price on the basis of the export-duty which was
prevalent till 17th
May, 1977, the day
prior to the date of auction.
imposts keep on changing and none of the parties has a control either over
their variation or over the time of theft variation. The dates of auction have
necessarily to be fixed in advance. It is to obviate the hardship or to grant
the necessary benefit, as the case may be, that purposely the period of 45 days
laid down in clause 10 is stipulated to include the day of the auction as well.