H. N. G. FERNANDO, J.—Abdul Basir v. The Government Agent,
1963Present: H. N. G. Fernando, J.A. ABDUL BASIR, Petitioner, and THE GOVERNMENT AGENT,
S. C. 484/62—Application for Revision in M. C. Puttalam, 13,711
Heavy Oil Motor Vehicles Taxation Ordinance (Gap. 249), aa amended by Act No. 20of 1961—Section 6—“ Heavy oil ”—Retrospective effect of the amending Act.
A taxing statute may be amended so as to operate retrospectively. Theeffect, therefore, of the retrospective provision, in section 2 (2) of the HeavyOil Motor Vehicles Taxation (Amendment) Act, No. 20 of 1961, is to• render diesel oil motor vehicles subject to the special tax for periods priorto the date of enactment of the amending Act.
Application to revise an order of the Magistrate’s Court, Puttalam.
H. W. Jayewardene, Q.C., with S. C. Crossette-Thambiah, for thePetitioner.
H. L. de Silva, Crown Counsel, for the Respondent.
Cur. adv. vult.
October 14, 1963. H. N. G. Fernando, J.—
The Heavy Oil Motor Vehicles Taxation Ordinance (now Chapter 249)imposes on what are called “Heavy oil motor vehicles” a tax determinedin a prescribed maimer. The vehicles to which the tax applies are thosewhich use heavy oil as fuel, and the term “ heavy oil ” was originallydefined in Section 6 of the Ordinance to mean any oil not subject to importduty under the Customs Ordinance. It is apparent therefore that origi-nally the object of the Ordinance was to impose a tax on certain types offuel as an alternative to the levy of import duty on those types.
In 1956, by Gazette Notification of 12th July of that year, diesel oilbecame subject to an import duty leviable under the Customs Ordinanceand in consequence diesel oil ceased to be within the scope of the definitionof “ heavy oil ” within the meaning of Chapter 249. Hence the petitionerin the present case who was the owner of a motor vehicle using diesel oilceased from July 1956 to be liable to pay the tax imposed by that Chapter.
By an Amending Act No. 20 of 1961, Parliament amended the definitionof “ heavy oil ” in order to bring diesel oil again within the scope of thedefinition, and this amendment was given retrospective effect as from13th July, 1956. The present appellant who apparently had not paidthe tax under Chapter 249, at least for the period December 1959 to
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August 1961, was in September 1961 called upon in the prescribed mannerto pay the tax for that period. There is no doubt that he is liable inrespect of the period April 25th, 1961, to August 1961 to make thepayment, for the Amending Act came into operation on April 25th, 1961.But there remains the question whether he is liable to make the paymentfor any period prior to April 25th, 1961.
The effect of the retrospective provision in Section 2 (2) of the ActNo. 20 of 1961, is that, as from the 13th July, 1956, the definition of theterm “ heavy oil ” must be held to have included diesel oil within itsscope. This Court has recently had occasion in a very important context(R. v. Liyanage et al. x) to consider the sufficiency of language similar tothat which occurs in Act No. 20 of 1961, and held that the languagesufficed to create a penal offence retrospectively. A taxing statute doesnot require to be construed more strictly than a penal statute. I amcompelled to hold therefore that the effect of the amending legislationwas to render diesel oil motor vehicles subject to the special tax forperiods prior to the date of enactment of the amending Act.
In the Magistrate’s Court, Counsel read a statement made in the Houseof Representatives on the 4th of April 1961 by the Leader of the House,in which it was stated that the purpose of the amending Bill was only tolegalise past recoveries of the tax on diesel oil, and that there was noquestion of collecting the tax retrospectively. Unfortunately this state-ment cannot influence our construction of the meaning of the amendinglegislation because on the face of the Act there is no room for doubt asto the meaning. But if in fact the Act has gone further in its effect thanthe Minister intended, perhaps this would be a case for ex gratia relief.
I would dismiss the application but without costs.
A. ABDUL BASIR, Petitioner, and THE GOVERNMENT AGENT, PUTTALAM, Respondent