Tax Statute to be interpreted in the light of what is clearly expressed

Supreme Court: Dealing with interesting question as to whether the dead person’s property, in the form of his or her estate, can be taxed without the necessary machinery provisions in a tax statute, the bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and R.F. Nariman, JJ held that a taxing statute is to be interpreted in the light of what is clearly expressed and anything which is not expressed should not be implied.

Rejecting the contention that Section 11A of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 (Act) is a machinery provision which must be construed to make it workable, the Court said that machinery provisions apply on the persons who wish to evade taxes but in the present case the individual proprietor had died through natural causes and that it is nobody’s case that he had maneuvered his own death in order to evade excise duty.

The Court was of the opinion that to tax the dead is a contradiction in terms and that tax laws are made by the living to tax the living, hence, said that while interpreting the provisions of the Act, legal heirs who are not the persons chargeable to duty under the Act cannot be brought within the ambit of the Act by stretching its provisions. Shabina Abraham v. Collector of Central Excise & Customs, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 664, decided on 29.07.2015


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