The Supreme Court has ruled that companies involved in the business and marketing of processed betel nuts are not liable to tax as its crushing and sweetening does not result in a distinct product.
A Bench comprising Justice A R Lakshmanan and Justice Altamas Kabir said the process involved in the manufacture of sweetened betel nut pieces does not result in the manufacture of the new product as the end product continued to retain its original character albeit in a modified form.
While quashing the order of Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, the apex court said the process employed by companies did not change the nature of the end product as 'betel nut remains a betel nut.'
The ruling came on an appeal filed by Crane Betel Nut Powder Works which sought exemption from paying tax on the ground that the business of marketing betel nuts in different sizes after adding oils, menthol and sweetening agent did not involve any manufacturing activity.
Company's counsel Soli J Sorabjee had contended crushing of betel nuts into smaller pieces with the help of machines and passing them through sieves to obtain goods of different sizes and sweetening of pieces did not amount to manufacture.
Mere crushing of betel nuts did not bring into existence a different commodity which had a distinct character of its own, he had said.