At, Supreme Court of India
By, THE HONOURABLE MRS.JUSTICE RUMA PAL & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE B.P. SINGH
For the Appellants :
1. The question involved in these appeals is whether waste, parings and scraps (WPS) arising in the course of manufacture of polyurethane foam blocks were entitled to the benefit of the exemption Notification 53/88 or 54/88 for the period in question. It is the contention of the appellant that WPS of polyurethane foam were covered by Notification No. 54/88 and No. 53/88. The submission is that the WPS of flexible polyurethane foam (PUF) had been specifically excluded from Notification 53/88 (serial No. 42) and has been dealt with expressly in exemption Notification 54/88.
2. The Tribunal was of the opinion that both the Execution Notifications applied to the WPS of PUF and that since a greater benefit was conferred on the assessee by Notification 53/88, the Revenue was bound to grant such greater benefit to it.
3. The appellant has submitted that the Tribunal has erred in holding that the Notifications overlapped. Detailed arguments were addressed to us on this basis and there appears to be substance in the submission of the appellant on this point. However, learned counsel appearing on behalf of two of the assessees, namely, Durafoam and U. Foam, has submitted that even on the basis that Notification 54/88 applied, the assessee was entitled to the benefit of the exemption to the extent that it provided for payment of nil rate of duty. In view of this argument we do not propose to decide the issue whether Notifications 53/88 and 54/88 overlapped and, if so, what would be the outcome thereof. Notification No. 54/88, as it stood prior to 1989 read as follows:
"Notification No. 53/88-CE, (sic-No. 54/88-CE) dated 1.3.1988.
Effective rates of duty on flexible and rigid P.U. foam and articles thereof - In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-rule (1) of rule 8 of the Central Excise Rules, 1944, the Central Government hereby exempts goods of the description, specified in column (3) of the Table hereto annexed, and falling under heading Nos. of sub-heading Nos. of the Schedule to the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985 (5 of 1986) as are specified in the corresponding entry in column (2) of the said Table, from so much of the duty of excise leviable thereon which is specified in the said Schedule, as is in excess of the amount calculated at the rate specified in the corresponding entry in column (4) of the said Table, subject to the conditions, if any, laid down in the corresponding entry in column (5) of the said Table.
4. In 1989 Notification No. 54/88 was further amended by substituting Sl. No. 2 of the Notification and by adding Sl. No. 6. The 1989 amendment reads as follows:
(ii) after S. No. 05 and the entries relating thereto, the following S.No. and entries shall be inserted, namely:
5. According to the assessees/ respondents the WPS in question would be covered by Sl. No. 3. It is further submitted that the latter portion of Sl. No. 2 as it originally stood as well as Sl. No. 3 and Sl. No.6 as introduced in 1989 were identical. The difference was in the rate of duty based on the fulfillment of conditions under Sl. No.3.
6. Learned counsel appearing for the appellant does not dispute that the WPS in question would be covered under Sl. Nos. 2, as it originally stood, Sl. No.3 and Sl. No.6 subsequent to the 1989 amendment. However, it is contended that the condition prescribed in respect of Sl. No. 3 had not been fulfilled by the respondent inasmuch as the flexible PUF out of which the WPS had resulted, not been subjected to any duty and had been exempted from payment of duty by Notification 217/86. Reliance, has been placed on the decision of this Court in Collector of Central Excise, Vadodara vs. Dhiren Chemical Industries 2002(2) SCC 127* in support of this contention.
7. It is not in dispute that during the period in question in all these appeals there were circulars in operation issued by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) which had specifically construed the phrase 'already been paid", as occurring in condition 1 against Sl. No.3, to include cases where nil rate of duty had been prescribed. No doubt this was done on the basis of the decision of this Court in Usha Martin 1997(7) SCC 47**. It is also true that the decision in Usha Martin was over-ruled by this Court in the decision of Dhiren Chemical Industries (supra). However in paragraph 9 of Dhiren Chemical Industries (supra) the Constitution Bench of this Court has made it clear that regardless of the interpretation placed on the aforesaid phrase by the Court, if there were circulars which had been issued by the CBEC which placed a different interpretation upon the phrase, that interpretation would be binding on the Revenue. This view has been reaffirmed in Collector of Central Excise, Vadodara vs. Dhiren Chemical Industries 2002 (143) ELT 19***. Therefore the ci
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rculars in question issued by the CBEC construing the phrase "duty already paid" must be held to bind the Revenue as long as they were not withdrawn which they were but only in 2002. For the period in question the circulars were operative. The appeals are, accordingly, dismissed albeit for reasons which are different from those expressed by the Tribunal. We make it clear that this decision will not operate to reopen any assessment order nor will any duty already paid become refundable by reason of this judgment. There will be no order as to costs.