18th January, 2005
AUTHORITY FOR ADVANCE RULINGS
Order No. AAR/02(CUS)/2005
Application No. AAR/110(CUS)/2004
O R D E R
(By Mr.Justice Syed Shah Mohammed Quadri)
M/s Dell India Private Limited - the applicant - is a wholly owned subsidiary of M/s Dell International Inc. USA, a foreign company. M/s Dell Computer India Private Limited is another wholly owned subsidiary of the said foreign company. The applicant acquired the business of the trading division of M/s Dell Computer India Private Limited with effect from November 1, 2004. It proposes to engage in import and trade of computers, desktops, notebooks, workstations, etc. On these facts, the applicant sought advance rulings of the Authority on the following questions:-
2. On examination of the application it was
noticed that prima facie the application is liable to be rejected and by
Order dated 14th December, 2004, M/s.Dell India Private Ltd. was
called upon to show cause as to why the application should not be rejected for
the following reasons :-
(a) already pending in the applicant"s case before any officer of customs, the Appellate Tribunal or any Court;
(b) the same as in a matter already decided by the Appellate Tribunal or any Court:
Provided further that no application shall be rejected under this sub-section unless an opportunity has been given to the applicant of being heard:
Provided also that where the application is rejected, reasons for such rejection shall be given in the order."
6. A plain reading of the provisions, quoted above, makes it clear that after examining the application and the records called for, the Authority may either allow or reject the application, however, the first proviso leaves no option with the Authority in regard to matters falling under clauses (a) and (b) thereof. The basis of first ground in the notice is clause (b) which mandates that the Authority shall not allow the application when the question raised in the application is the same as in a matter already decided by the Appellate Tribunal or any Court. Obviously, the intention of the Parliament is that the Authority shall not entertain an application in which the question posed for seeking advance ruling has already been decided by the Appellate Tribunal or any Court. What is germane is the identity of the substance of the question and not the identity of the enactment in the context of which the question is decided by the Appellate Tribunal or any Court.
7. The Customs Act and the Central Excise Act are sister enactments. The scheme of classification of goods under the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985 and the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 is based on Harmonised System of Nomenclature (HSN). The respective First Schedules to the Central Excise Tariff Act and Customs Tariff Act, have mostly identical sections and chapters; a large number of main tariff Headings are also identical. Having regard to the provision of an entry in the First Schedule to the Central Excise Tariff Act, if any "goods" are classified under a particular main heading, the same would also hold good for classification of the same "goods" under the Customs Tariff Act.
We may quote here the relevant main tariff heading 8524 as in the First Schedule to Customs Tariff Act and First Schedule to Central Excise Tariff Act
A glance at the above entries shows that they are identical. It is true that under the Customs Tariff Act, software falls under the sub heading 8524 31 and under the Central Excise Tariff Act, software falls under the sub Heading 8524.20, but it cannot be lost sight of that under both the enactments, software is classified under the main heading 85.24.
8. The distinction sought to be made by Mr. Thirumalai on the ground that in the case before the Hon'ble Supreme Court it was valuation of the goods that was under consideration, is not relevant. The fact remains that the Hon'ble Supreme Court did advert to the question of classification, of preloaded softwares, with reference to the valuation, which is none the less binding as the law of the land. The fact that the present case arises under the Customs Act would, for the aforementioned reason, make no difference.
9.In ACER's case, the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed:
"...The computer and software are distinct and separate, both as a matter of commercial parlance as also under the statute. Although a computer may not be capable of effective functioning unless loaded with softwares, the same would not tantamount to bringing them within the purview of the part of the computer so as to hold that if they are sold along with the computer their value must form part of the assessable value thereof for the purpose of excise duty. Both computer and software must be classified having fallen under 84.71 and 85.24 and must be subject to corresponding rates of duties separately..."
".......The legal text contained in Chapter 84, as explained in Chapter Note 6, clearly states that a software, even if contained in a hardware, does not lose its character as such. When an exemption has been granted from levy of any excise duty on software whether it is operating software or application software in terms of heading 85.24, no excise duty can be levied thereupon indirectly, as it was impermissible to levy a tax indirectly. In that view of the matter the decision in PSI Data Systems (supra) must be held to have correctly been rendered."
For the aforementioned reasons we hold that question (a) in the application is the same as is already decided by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in ACER's case (supra).
10. In view of the conclusion arrived at on the first ground given in the notice; we do not consider it necessary to deal with the second ground. In the result, in view of the provisions of clause (b) of the first proviso to sub-section (2) of section 28-I of the Customs Act, we reject the application.
Pronounced in the Court of this Authority on January 18, 2005