While dismissing a Special Leave petition which was filed against a Rajasthan High Court order, the Supreme Court observed that statutes must be interpreted in a just, sensible and reasonable manner.
In the instant case, the SLP petitioner( Commercial Tax Officer) argued that a single transaction of purchase of motor vehicle does not bring a person under the definition of Casual Trader as per Rajasthan Tax on Entry of Motor Vehicle into Local Areas Act 1988, according to which a casual trader imagines occasional transactions of business involving selling and buying of goods. Therefore multiple transactions is a condition precedent for treating a trader as a Casual Trader. Therefore if there is a single transaction, the assessee, cannot be called a casual trader.
Rajasthan High Court had upheld the order passed by the Appellate Authority which had set aside the Assessment Order ruling that the assessee was a “Casual Trader” and, therefore, the limitation for passing an Assessment order against the person was two years from the date of transaction.
However, the Supreme Court stated that the legislature did not intend that a person who makes just 2-3 trades should be defined as a casual trader, but a person who made just one transaction should be treated as regular traders.
The Court noted that the definition of a casual trader in the Act clarifies that a person with occasional transactions of selling/buying is to be treated as casual traders. For such persons, a shorter time for assessment has been imposed u/s 10B(iii) r/w Section 10A of Rajasthan Sales Tax Act 1954.
In this regard, reliance was placed on Tirath Singh vs Bachittar Singh where the Court held that as per settled law, singular words are to include the plural and vice versa, unless repugnant to the context where it has been used as mentioned u/s 13(2) of General Clauses Act. Therefore the Court should interpret a statute in a just, sensible and reasonable manner. If grammatical construction leads to absurdity, it should be departed from avoiding inconsistency, anomaly and absurdity.
Following the observation, the Court dismissed the petition.