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Sunday, July 26, 2015

service tax payable on wharfage charges. = no service is rendered by GMB to UCL under the agreement. = service tax is leviable under Section 65(105)(zn) which reads as follows:- “Taxable service” means any service provided or to be provided- “(zn) to any person, by a port or any person authorized by the port, in relation to port services, in any manner;”The revenue authorities initiated investigation against GMB for under- valuation and short payment of service tax. Ultimately, a show cause notice dated 6.3.2009 was issued to collect 80% of service tax payable on wharfage charges which was not paid by the assessee. This was for the period 1.10.2003 to 31.3.2006, the differential amount being a sum of Rs.1,67,45,620/-. A further amount of Rs.12,53,076/- was also demanded for the period 2003 October upto 2007-2008 on account of the provision of direct berthing facilities provided for captive cargo of a ship size of 10,000 DWT and above on account of lease rent for use of the waterfront. = The respondent - M/s Gujarat Maritime Board (hereinafter referred to as “GMB”) is a statutory body constituted under the Gujarat Maritime Board Act, 1981 (hereinafter referred to as “GMB Act”). This authority administers and operates minor ports in the State of Gujarat. GMB entered into an agreement dated 28.2.2000 with Larsen & Toubro which ultimately became M/s Ultratech Cement Limited (hereinafter referred to as “UCL”) whereby a licence was granted to UCL to construct and use a jetty for landing of goods and raw materials manufactured by UCL in their cement factory which was situate close to the said jetty at Pipavav port.There is no doubt on a reading of the agreement that it is the Board itself that charges or recovers wharfage charges from the licensee - UCL and does not authorize UCL to recover such charges from other persons. This being the position, it is clear that no service is rendered by a port or by any person authorized by such port and, therefore, the very first condition for levy of service tax is absent on the facts of the present case. So far as the direct berthing facilities provided for captive cargo is concerned, the lease rent charged for use of the waterfront also does not include any service in relation to a vessel or goods and cannot be described as “port service”. This being so, it is unnecessary to go into any of the other contentions raised by both parties. To the extent that the impugned judgment is in conformity with our judgment, it is upheld. The appeals of the revenue are, therefore, dismissed accordingly.

                                                                  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                     CIVIL APPEAL NOS.3347-3348 OF 2014




           COMMISSIONER OF CENTRAL
           EXCISE, BHAVNAGAR                 …APPELLANT


                                   VERSUS


           M/S GUJARAT MARITIME BOARD,
           JAFRABAD                           ...RESPONDENT




                               J U D G M E N T

           R.F. Nariman, J.

           1.    The issue raised in the  present  civil  appeals  is  with
           regard  to  service  tax  payable  on  wharfage  charges.    The
           respondent - M/s Gujarat Maritime Board (hereinafter referred to
           as “GMB”) is a statutory  body  constituted  under  the  Gujarat
           Maritime Board Act, 1981 (hereinafter referred to as “GMB Act”).
            This authority administers and  operates  minor  ports  in  the
           State of Gujarat.  GMB entered into an agreement dated 28.2.2000
           with Larsen &  Toubro  which  ultimately  became  M/s  Ultratech
           Cement Limited (hereinafter referred  to  as  “UCL”)  whereby  a
           licence was granted to UCL to construct  and  use  a  jetty  for
           landing of goods and raw materials manufactured by UCL in  their
           cement factory which was situate close  to  the  said  jetty  at
           Pipavav port.  As the true construction of this agreement is the
           bone of contention between the parties, we will refer to it in a
           little detail hereafter.

           2.    It is alleged that service tax  was  payable  on  wharfage
           charges by GMB collected by them from their licensee  UCL  under
           the  taxable  category  of   “port   services”.    The   revenue
           authorities  initiated  investigation  against  GMB  for  under-
           valuation and short payment of service tax.  Ultimately, a  show
           cause notice dated 6.3.2009 was issued to collect 80% of service
           tax payable on wharfage  charges  which  was  not  paid  by  the
           assessee.  This was for the period 1.10.2003 to  31.3.2006,  the
           differential amount being a sum of Rs.1,67,45,620/-.  A  further
           amount of Rs.12,53,076/- was also demanded for the  period  2003
           October upto 2007-2008 on account of  the  provision  of  direct
           berthing facilities provided for captive cargo of a ship size of
           10,000 DWT and above on account of lease rent  for  use  of  the
           waterfront.  By the  order  in  original  dated  16.7.2009,  the
           Commissioner, Central Excise held that  it  is  clear  that  the
           nature of service  provided,  which  is  wharfage,  is  squarely
           covered under the head “port services” as defined in the Finance
           Act, 1994.  The amount of rebate/concession granted in  wharfage
           charges  amounting  to  80%  allowed  to  the  licensee  should,
           therefore, be included for purposes of  calculation  of  service
           tax.  Equally, the amount that was demanded on account of  lease
           rent for waterfront usage  was  also  confirmed,  together  with
           interest and penalty, which was imposed on the assessee.

           3.    In appeal from this order, CESTAT by  its  judgment  dated
           1.8.2013 reversed  the  Commissioner’s  order  holding  that  no
           service at all was rendered by the  Gujarat  Maritime  Board  in
           relation to any vessel and, therefore, no amount was payable  by
           way of service tax.  Equally, on an analysis  of  the  agreement
           between GMB and UCL, it was held that 20%  of  wharfage  charges
           which was payable under the  agreement  was  really  payable  as
           licence fee/rental and, therefore, the balance 80% being of  the
           nature of licence fee/rental and not  being  of  the  nature  of
           payment for services rendered would equally render  the  payment
           bad in law.

           4.    Shri Yashank Adhyaru, learned senior advocate appearing on
           behalf of the revenue has taken us through the Gujarat  Maritime
           Board Act and the Finance Act, 1994.  It is his contention  that
           on a conjoint reading of the two Acts and in particular  Section
           37 of the Gujarat Maritime Board Act and Section 65(82)  of  the
           Finance Act, 1994, it is clear  on  a  correct  reading  of  the
           agreement between GMB and UCL that service was rendered  by  GMB
           as owner of the jetty, the service  being  the  provision  of  a
           space for landing of goods from vessels  which  are  allowed  to
           berth there.  As an alternative argument, on a  correct  reading
           of the agreement, it was also argued that GMB had authorized UCL
           to render the service of wharfage and since what  was  collected
           was actual wharfage charges in accordance with the  schedule  of
           rates prescribed under the Gujarat Maritime Board Act, it was in
           relation to goods that were loaded or off-loaded from vessels on
           the said jetty.  It was further argued by learned  counsel  that
           the reason why only 20% of the wharfage  charges  was  collected
           and not the  entire  amount  was  a  pure  internal  arrangement
           between GMB and UCL with which revenue  is  not  concerned.   He
           further assailed the findings of the Tribunal stating  that  the
           finding that the ownership of the jetty vests in UCL is contrary
           to the agreement between the parties and that  20%  of  wharfage
           levied and collected cannot be said to be rental or licence  fee
           but is wharfage charges collected under  the  GMB  Act  for  the
           service of allowing goods  to  be  landed  at  the  said  jetty.
           According to learned counsel, the Gujarat Maritime Board was the
           owner and in control of the said jetty throughout  the  term  of
           the agreement and all findings to the contrary by  the  Tribunal
           were incorrect.

            5.    Shri P.P. Tripathi, learned senior advocate appearing  for
           the respondent  countered  all  the  aforesaid  submissions  and
           supported the Tribunal judgment.  According to learned  counsel,
           the very basis for service tax was absent in the present case as
           there is no service rendered of  any  kind  by  his  client  the
           respondent on the facts of the present case to UCL nor  has  UCL
           been authorized by  GMB  to  render  any  service  mentioned  in
           Section 37 of the Act and that, therefore, the authority to levy
           service tax was absent.  He also argued that the 20% of wharfage
           charges that was paid under the  agreement  was  really  only  a
           measure to calculate what is in fact payable as licence fee  and
           that, therefore, the agreement read as a whole would lead to the
           conclusion  that  no  service  was  in  fact  rendered  by   the
           respondent and, therefore, no service tax could be collected.

           6.    It is important first to advert to the Finance  Act,  1994
           under which the charge is laid for service tax.  Section  65(82)
           defines “port service” as under:-

                 “Port service” means any service  rendered  by  a  port  or
                 other port or any person authorized by such port  or  other
                 port, in any manner in relation to a vessel or goods;”




           7.    Such service tax is  leviable  under  Section  65(105)(zn)
           which reads as follows:-

                 “Taxable service” means any  service  provided  or  to  be
           provided-

                 “(zn) to any person, by a port or any person authorized  by
                 the port, in relation to port services, in any manner;”




           Further, under Section 67 of the said  Act,  the  value  of  any
           taxable service shall be the gross amount charged by the service
           provider for such service provided or to be provided by him.

           8.    The relevant provisions of the Gujarat Maritime Board  Act
           are as follows:-

                 “35.  Power to permit erection  of  private  wharves,  etc.
                 within a port subject to conditions:

                 (1)   No person shall make, erect or fix within the  limits
                 of a port or port approaches any wharf, dock, quay,  stage,
                 jetty, pier, place of anchorage,  erection  or  mooring  or
                 undertake any reclamation  of  foreshore  within  the  said
                 limits except with the previous permission  in  writing  of
                 the Board and subject to such conditions, if  any,  as  the
                 Board may specify.

                 (2)   If any person makes, erects or fixes and wharf, dock,
                 quay, stage jetty, pier place  of  anchorage,  erection  or
                 mooring  or  undertakes   reclamation   of   foreshore   in
                 contravention of sub-section (1) the Board may,  by  notice
                 require such person to remove it within such time as may be
                 specified in the notice and  if  the  person  fails  so  to
                 remove it the Board may cause  it  to  be  removed  at  the
                 expense of that person.

                 37.   Scales of rates for services performed  by  Board  or
                 other person:-

                 (1)   The Board shall from time to time frame  a  scale  of
                 rates at which and a  statement  of  the  conditions  under
                 which any of the services specified hereunder  (except  the
                 State charges) shall be performed by itself or  any  person
                 authorized under Section 32 at or in relation to  the  port
                 or port approaches-

                 (a)   transshipping of passengers or goods between  vessels
                 in the port or port  approaches;

                 (b)   stevedoring, landing and shipping  of  passengers  or
                 goods from or to such vessels, to or from any  wharf,  quay
                 jetty, pier, dock, berth mooring stage, or  erection,  land
                 or building in the possession or occupation of the Board or
                 at any  place  within  the  limits  of  the  port  or  port
                 approaches;

                 (c)   cranage or porterage of goods on any such place;

                 (d)   wharfage, storage or demurrage of goods on  any  such
                 place;

                   (e) any other service in respect of  vessels,  passengers
                 or goods excepting the services in respect of  vessels  for
                 which fees are chargeable under the Indian Port  Act,  1908
                 (15 of 1908).

                 (2)   Different scales  of  rates  and  conditions  may  be
                 framed for different classes of goods and vessels  and  for
                 different ports.

                 32.   Performance of services by Board or other person:-

                 1)    The Board shall have power to undertake the following
                 services:-

                 (a)    stevedoring,  landing,  shipping  or   transshipping
                 passengers and  goods  between  vessels  in  port  and  the
                 wharves, piers, quays, or docks  belonging  to  or  in  the
                 possession of the Board;

                 (b)   receiving, removing, shifting, transporting,  storing
                 or delivering goods brought within the Board’s premises;

                 (c)   carrying passengers within the  limits  of  the  port
                 approaches, by such means and subject to such  restrictions
                 and conditions as the State Government  may  think  fit  to
                 impose; and

                 (d)    piloting, hauling, mooring, re-mooring,  hooking  or
                 measuring of vessels or any other  service  in  respect  of
                 vessels.

                 (2)   The Board may, if so requested  by  the  owner,  take
                 charge of the goods  for  the  purpose  of  performing  the
                 service or services and shall give a receipt in  such  form
                 as the Board may specify.

                 (3)   Notwithstanding anything contained in  this  section,
                 the Board may authorize any person to perform  any  of  the
                 services mentioned in sub-section (1)  on  such  terms  and
                 conditions as may be agreed upon.

                 (4)   No person  authorized  under  sub-section  (3)  shall
                 charge or recover for such service any sum in excess of the
                 amount leviable according to the scale framed under Section
                 37, 38 or 40.

                 (5)   Any such person shall, if so required  by  the  owner
                 perform in respect of the goods any of the services and for
                 that purpose take charge of the goods and give a receipt in
                 such form as the Board may specify.

                 (6)   The responsibility of any such person for  the  loss,
                 destruction or deterioration of goods of which he has taken
                 charge shall, subject to the other provisions of this  Act,
                 be that of  a bailee under Section 151, 152 and 161 of  the
                 Indian Contract Act, 1872 (IX of 1872).

                 (7)   After any goods have  been  taken  charge  of  and  a
                 receipt given for them under this section, no liability for
                 any loss or damage which may occur to them shall attach  to
                 any person to whom a receipt  has  been  given  or  to  the
                 matter or owner of the vessel from  which  the  goods  have
                 been landed or transshipped.




           9.    Since a large part of the arguments on both sides revolved
           around the agreement dated 28.2.2000, between GMB  and  UCL,  it
           would be important to advert to the various  provisions  of  the
           agreement.  The agreement begins as follows:

                 “THE ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT made at Gandhinagar on this  day
                 28th February, two thousand between  the  GUJARAT  MARITIME
                 BOARD, a Board constituted under the Gujarat Maritime Board
                 Act, 1981 – (Gujarat Act No.XXX of 1981) having its  office
                 at Opp. Air force  station,  ‘Chh’  Road,  Sector  No.10-A,
                 Gandhinagar, hereinafter referred to as the “BOARD”  (which
                 expression shall unless it be repugnant to the  context  or
                 meaning  thereof  mean  and  include  its  successors   and
                 assigns) of the one part and Larsen & Toubro Limited having
                 its Registered Office at L&T House, Ballard Estate,  Mumbai
                 – 21, hereinafter referred  to  as  the  “LICENSEE’  (which
                 expression shall unless it be repugnant to the  context  or
                 meaning  thereof  mean  and  include  its  successors   and
                 assigns) of the other part;

                 WHEREAS the Licensee approached the  Board  for  permission
                 for construction and use of a Captive Jetty at Port Pipavav
                 in the State of Gujarat on a license basis for the  purpose
                 of handling, storage and  transportation  of  raw-materials
                 for  manufacturing   and   finished   products   that   are
                 manufactured by the Licensee and for  the  purpose  of  the
                 Board as well;

                 AND WHEREAS the Board and the Licensee have already entered
                 into License agreement which is modified and  this  license
                 Agreement in modification of previous Agreement is  entered
                 into by and between the Board and the Licensee as appearing
                 hereinafter;

                 AND WHEREAS in consideration of the Licensee constructing a
                 Captive jetty as aforesaid at  its  cost  initially  to  be
                 adjusted against the Rebate, that may  be  granted  by  the
                 Board, the Board as  empowered  under  Section  35  of  the
                 Gujarat Maritime Board Act, 1981 granted to the Licensee  a
                 license or permission for construction/use of  the  captive
                 Jetty on the said port at the  place  aligned,  demarcated,
                 provided and approved by  the  Board  upon  the  terms  and
                 conditions specified herein on Build, transfer, Operate and
                 Maintain basis;

                 NOW IT IS AGREED BY  AND  BETWEEN  THE  PARTIES  HERETO  AS
                 FOLLOWS:

                 (c)   ‘PORT CHARGES’ would mean port charges  specified  in
                 schedule of  port  charges,  notified  by  government/Board
                 under the Indian Ports  Act,  1908/Gujarat  Maritime  Board
                 Act, 1981 and allied legislations/regulations from time  to
                 time.

                 (e)   ‘CAPTIVE JETTY’ would mean a  Jetty  constructed  for
                 landing and shipping by a port based industry,  located  in
                 Gujarat for landing and shipping of their Captive  Industry
                 Raw Materials for manufacturing or their finished  products
                 that are manufactured by the Licensee, from the constructed
                 Jetty for that specific industry.

                 2. The Board has granted permission  to  the  licensee  for
                 continuing with construction and use of the  Captive  Jetty
                 at the site demarcated on the plan, a layout of  which  has
                 been annexed to this agreement.



                 3. The Licensee shall pay  and  continue  to  pay  for  the
                 license granted under  this  Agreement  a  license  fee  of
                 Rs.10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand only)  per  annum  to  the
                 Board regularly on or before the 30th day  of  April  every
                 year during the currency of this agreement.

                 12. The ownership of the structure so constructed vests  in
                 the Board and the Licensee  shall  have  no  right,  title,
                 interest or other proprietary  right  in  respect  of  such
                 structure or in respect of the land on which the  structure
                 is constructed, it being specifically understood that water-
                 front is the sovereign right of the Government.

                 13. The Licensee may however obtain a loan at its own  risk
                 and cost, on the basis of rights granted to him under  this
                 agreement and is entitled to create a charge or lien on its
                 rights or property only on the basis of investment made  by
                 it for construction i.e. to say taking  into  consideration
                 the extent of investment made by it in the construction;

                 PROVIDED that and it is agreed that the cost can be divided
                 for  the  purpose  of  obtaining  finance  for  the   Jetty
                 construction, it being, however,  clearly  understood  that
                 the water-front is a sovereign right of Government and  the
                 right of the Licensee is limited only for  the  purpose  of
                 mortgage or hypothecation to the extent of investment  made
                 by it and its right to concur in the event of  transfer  or
                 take over of the entire  project  to  which  the  Jetty  is
                 attached, subject, however, to the prior  approval  of  the
                 Board for transfer of license. The Licensee  shall  not  be
                 allowed to transfer the jetty separately  as  the  same  is
                 directly connected to the  project  to  which  the  Captive
                 Jetty is allowed to be constructed.

                 PROVIDED further that whatever  rebate  and  concession  is
                 granted by the Board against the cost of construction,  the
                 equivalent amount at the relevant time shall be utilized by
                 the Licensee in repayment of loan so that at the end of the
                 period of this agreement when the  Licensee  may  not  have
                 right of rebate under this agreement, then the construction
                 is free of any liability in respect of such loan.

                 PROVIDED further that the  Bank  or  financial  institution
                 granting loan to the licensee  shall  not  have  any  right
                 against the Board.

                 PROVIDED further that in the event of a declaration of  War
                 in the Country or any Emergency or on account  of  national
                 security or any other circumstances, the Board is  entitled
                 to exercise all rights  in  such  kinds  of  situation  and
                 emergency. The Bank or financial institutions shall not  be
                 entitled in such event to exercise  any  right  under  loan
                 documents  even  in  respect  of  such  construction.   The
                 Licensee shall obtain "No  Objection  Certificate"  of  the
                 Board for the loan and for  the  terms  and  conditions  on
                 which the loan is sanctioned, and shall  be  bound  to  see
                 that the relevant Clauses in pursuance  of  this  Agreement
                 are incorporated in loan documents.

                 15. The Board may, in order to decide  the  safety  of  the
                 structure or for any other purpose,  carry  out  inspection
                 every six months from the date of issue of  the  Completion
                 Certificate.  The Licensee shall carry out maintenance  and
                 repairs to the structure  at  its  own  cost,  whenever  so
                 directed by the Board upon  inspection.  No  alteration  or
                 extension  of  the  Jetty  shall  be  done  without   prior
                 permission of the  Board  in  writing  PROVIDED  that  this
                 clause shall not  preclude  the  Board  from  carrying  out
                 inspection at any time, instead of every six months.

                 16. The Licensee shall at its own cost repair and  maintain
                 the jetty in good order and condition to  the  satisfaction
                 of the Board during the tenure of this agreement and on the
                 failure of the Licensee  to  do  so,  the  Board  shall  be
                 entitled, but not bound, to do so at the cost of  licensee.
                 This condition however, does not entitle  the  Licensee  to
                 refrain from carrying out repair or maintain the  Jetty  in
                 good order and condition and it is further agreed that non-
                 performance by Licensee shall be considered as a breach  of
                 condition of this agreement.

                 17. In consideration of the Board permitting  the  Licensee
                 to construct the Captive Jetty at its own  cost  initially,
                 the Board hereby agree that the Jetty to be so  constructed
                 by the Licensee shall mainly and initially as per the terms
                 of this agreement, allowed  to  be  used  for  the  vessels
                 belonging to the Licensee or chartered by the Licensee,  on
                 preferential  basis,  without  any  ousting  priority   and
                 subject to Steamer  Working  (Priority)  Rules  as  may  be
                 amended from time to time and subject to  all  other  rules
                 and regulations and  the  legislations  prevailing  at  the
                 relevant time and subject also to the further conditions of
                 this agreement.

                 18. It is agreed that subject to the priority right of  the
                 Licensee for user of Jetty under the preceding  clause,  it
                 is further agreed that the Jetty shall when the same is not
                 in use by the Licensee, be open to use  by  the  Board  for
                 itself or for the traffic being regulated by the Board  for
                 the purpose  of  embarking  or  disembarking  their  ships,
                 boats, tugs, etc. and for loading  and  discharging  cargo.
                 The Licensee  or  its  Agents  shall  not  by  any  act  of
                 commission or omission, restrict the use of the  Jetty  and
                 back up area by the Board except when it is  actually  used
                 by the Licensee  for  the  purpose  provided  for  in  this
                 agreement.


                 PROVIDED that this clause shall not be  construed  to  mean
                 that Licensee has any ownership or  transferable  right  in
                 the property and the Licensee is not entitled to  levy  any
                 charges or compensation from the Board.

                 21. It is agreed that  subject  to  what  has  been  stated
                 herein, the Licensee shall be liable to pay  all  the  port
                 charges and all other dues payable by the Licensee  to  the
                 Board, and the Licensee shall not be eligible  to  get  any
                 other rebate or concession except that which  is  mentioned
                 in Clause 22 and 24.

                 22. It is agreed that  in  consideration  of  the  Licensee
                 constructing the Jetty at its own cost initially, the Board
                 has agreed to grant rebate, to be adjusted against the cost
                 of construction, as under:

                 A. The Licensee shall have  to  pay  landing/shipping  fees
                 (popularly known as wharfage charges) @ 20% of  the  actual
                 landing and shipping fees specified in the Schedule of Port
                 Charges prescribed  for  Captive  Jetty.  The  landing  and
                 shipping fees shall be calculated for this purpose  as  per
                 the schedule of  landing  and  shipping  fees,  as  may  be
                 revised or amended from time to time. This concession shall
                 be called 'REBATE' and it will  be  set  off  as  aforesaid
                 against the Capital Investment  (cost  of  construction  as
                 mentioned in Clause 24) made by the Captive  Jetty  holder,
                 and the same shall be calculated in  a  prescribed  format.
                 Once  the  Capital  Investment  is  recovered  through  the
                 Rebate,  the  Captive  Jetty  holder  shall  have  to   pay
                 thereafter, landing and shipping fees at the normal rate as
                 per the Schedule of Port Charges in force from time to time
                 prescribed for captive jetty.

                 B. The Licensee shall also be entitled, as  in  the  normal
                 case to a concession in payment  of  landing/shipping  fees
                 for coastal transportation of the cargo from one port under
                 the Board to another port under the Board @  25%  and  from
                 one port under the Board to another Indian  Port  or  vice-
                 versa @ 15% or at the rate as may be applicable  from  time
                 to time.

                 C. No Rebate will be given in respect of any other  charges
                 to be levied under  Indian  Ports  Act  and  under  Gujarat
                 Maritime Board Act. The parties shall have to pay  all  the
                 port charges at the rates specified  in  Schedule  of  Port
                 Charges in force from time to time.

                 ?25. In case the direct  berthing  facilities  provided  for
                 captive cargo (ship size calling at jetty of 10,000 DWT and
                 above) an amount of  Rs.25.00  Lakhs  (Rupees  Twenty  Five
                 Lakhs only) per annum will be charged  as  lease  rent  for
                 waterfront and way leave facility compensation.

                 28.   The Licensee shall provide all  the  services  at  or
                 around the  Jetty  including  dredging,  navigation,  water
                 supply, fire fighting equipments,  electricity,  telephone,
                 Very High Frequency (VHF) sets of HF sets  and  such  other
                 services and facilities which may be required at or  around
                 the Jetty and also such other services and facilities which
                 the Board may require the Licensee to keep available at  or
                 around the Jetty. If the Licensee does not provide  all  or
                 any of the aforesaid facilities, the Board may at  its  own
                 discretion provide such facilities at the cost and risk  of
                 the  Licensee  and  shall  recover  such  costs  from   the
                 Licensee. The decision of the Board regarding the amount of
                 cost incurred for such services shall be treated as final.

                 34. If the Licensee commits breach of any of the terms  and
                 conditions of this agreement or of any  Rules,  Regulations
                 or Notifications as may be in force from time to time,  the
                 Board shall be entitled to  give  notice  the  Licensee  to
                 remove such breach within a period of 15 days from the date
                 of notice and  Port  Authorities  can  temporarily  suspend
                 operation of captive port facility. If the said  notice  is
                 not complied with, the Board shall give another  Notice  to
                 terminate this agreement if the said breach is not complied
                 with within a period of further 15 days  and  that  on  the
                 expiry of such period  of  15  days,  the  agreement  shall
                 automatically be deemed to  have  been  terminated  without
                 further notice. Upon such termination of the agreement, the
                 Board shall  be  entitled  to  take  control  or  otherwise
                 dispose off all or any part of the Jetty that may have been
                 constructed, as well as the site thereof in such manner and
                 may give the same to such person or party as may be decided
                 by the Board and the Licensee shall not be entitled to  any
                 compensation,  nor shall the Licensee have then a right  in
                 respect of the superstructure or the land/sea on which  the
                 Jetty was constructed, provided that even if  the  cost  of
                 construction of the  Jetty  is  not  adjusted  against  the
                 aggregate of the  amount  of  rebate  availed  off  by  the
                 Licensee, the Licensee shall not be entitled to any refund.
                  In case of any dispute or difference by  and  between  the
                 Licensee and the Board, the same shall be referred  to  the
                 Arbitration of Secretary of the  Government  in  Ports  and
                 Fisheries Department and it shall  be  held  in  accordance
                 with  the  provisions  of  the   Indian   Arbitration   and
                 Reconciliation Act, 1996 or any statutory  modification  or
                 re-enactment thereof for the time being in force.

                 36.   The agreement shall remain in force for a  period  of
                 twenty five years or till such time  as  the  aggregate  of
                 ‘REBATE’ availed off by the party equals the amount of  the
                 construction of the Jetty whichever  is  earlier  from  the
                 date of commissioning of Jetty.

                 PROVIDED  further  that  even  after  aggregate  of  rebate
                 availed  of  by  the  Licensee   equals   the   amount   of
                 construction of Jetty, the Licensee will be allowed to  use
                 the Jetty for captive purpose subject to  full  payment  of
                 full wharfage  charges  so  long  as  the  project  of  the
                 Licensee for which the  permission  is  granted  exists  or
                 continues to exist, i.e., continues to function.

                 It is agreed and understood by the Licensee that out of the
                 terms ‘Jetty’ the terms applicable for the purpose of  this
                 Agreement may be  retained  in  this  Agreement  and  other
                 words/terms not applicable may be deleted.”




            10.   A reading of the agreement as a whole would  lead  to  the
           following conclusions:

              A. The agreement is a licence  agreement  entered  into  under
                 Section 35 of the Gujarat Maritime Board Act under which  a
                 licence or permission for construction and use of a captive
                 jetty in Pipavav Port is entered into on a Build, Transfer,
                 Operate and Maintain basis on certain conditions.

              B. A licence fee of Rs.10,000/- per annum is  payable  by  the
                 licensee to the Board for the  currency  of  the  agreement
                 unless terminated earlier.

              C. The ownership of what is constructed  vests  in  the  Board
                 together with the landing on which it  is  constructed  and
                 the waterfront.

              D. The jetty is constructed for the project  to  which  it  is
                 attached, namely, the cement factory of UCL.   The  licence
                 granted to UCL is, therefore, a non-transferable one.

              E. The Board is entitled to carry  out  inspection  every  six
                 months so that it can direct the licensee to  maintain  and
                 repair the structure at its own cost,  maintenance  of  the
                 said jetty in good order and condition being  that  of  the
                 licensee alone, a breach of which is considered as a breach
                 of the agreement.

              F. The jetty is to  be  used  mainly  for  the  goods  of  the
                 licensee and when not in use by the licensee can be used by
                 the Board itself.

              G. That in consideration  of  the  licensee  constructing  the
                 jetty at its own cost, the Board has agreed to grant rebate
                 to be adjusted against the  cost  of  construction  of  the
                 jetty by paying 20% of wharfage charges  specified  in  the
                 schedule of charges prescribed for  captive  jetties.  This
                 concession is to be called a  rebate  and  to  be  set  off
                 against the cost of construction of the said  jetty.   Once
                 the entire cost of construction is  recovered  through  the
                 rebate, the licensee will have to pay  thereafter  wharfage
                 charges at the full rate prescribed in the schedule of port
                 charges for captive jetties.

              H. For direct berthing facilities provided for  captive  cargo
                 in ships which call at the jetty of 10,000 DWT  and  above,
                 an amount of Rs.25,00,000/- will be charged as  lease  rent
                 for waterfront use.

              I. It is the licensee UCL that will provide all services at or
                 around the jetty including dredging, navigation,  etc.  and
                 if this is not done then the Board may on its  own  provide
                 such facilities at the risk and cost of the licensee UCL.

              J. The licence is  terminable  on  breach  of  the  terms  and
                 conditions of the agreement or of any  infraction  of  law.
                 Upon such termination, the Board shall be entitled to  take
                 control or otherwise dispose of all  or  any  part  of  the
                 jetty that may have been constructed.

              K. The period of the agreement is to be 25 years from the date
                 of commissioning of the jetty or such time  as  the  rebate
                 availed of by the party equals the construction cost of the
                 jetty whichever date is earlier. However,  even  after  the
                 rebate and the construction cost square off,  the  licensee
                 will be allowed to  use  the  jetty  for  captive  purposes
                 subject to full payment of wharfage charges so long as  the
                 project of the licensee – i.e.  the  cement  plant  of  the
                 licensee continues to function.




           11.   The question  which  arises  on  a  reading  of  the  said
           agreement is, therefore, whether any service is rendered by  GMB
           or by any person authorized by GMB in relation to  a  vessel  or
           goods.  The agreement makes it clear that it is the duty of  the
           licensee, i.e., UCL to maintain the  jetty  in  good  order  and
           condition during the tenure of the agreement. (See:  clauses  15
           and 16 set out above).  Further, it is UCL that  is  to  provide
           all  services  at  or  around  the  jetty  including   dredging,
           navigation, water supply etc. (See: clause 28 of the agreement).
            This makes it clear that during the currency of  the  agreement
           it is not the Board but the Licensee who keeps the said jetty in
           such condition that it is capable of enabling vessels  to  berth
           alongside it to load  and   unload   goods.     This  being  the
           position, we agree with Shri Tripathi, learned senior counsel on
           behalf of GMB that no service is rendered by GMB  to  UCL  under
           the agreement. The agreement  makes  it  clear  that  it  is  an
           agreement entered into under Section 35 of the GMB Act  allowing
           the licensee - UCL to construct a jetty and thereafter  maintain
           it at its own cost.  We may add  that  the  rebate  in  wharfage
           charges of 80% is a condition imposed statutorily under  Section
           35 of the said Act.  To say that it is in the  nature  of  lease
           rent or licence fee, would not be correct inasmuch as a separate
           licence fee is payable under the agreement.  (See: clause  3  of
           the agreement).  To that extent  we  agree  with  Shri  Adhyaru,
           learned senior advocate appearing on behalf of revenue that  the
           CESTAT does not seem to be correct in  this  behalf.   But  this
           would make no difference to the result of this case inasmuch  as
           the very first condition that must be met under  the  definition
           of “port service” is not met on the facts of the present case.

           12.   Shri Adhyaru argued relying upon the definition of “wharf”
           and “wharfage” in Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh  Edition  that
           all that is necessary is that a wharf be provided by the  Board.
           The very provision of such wharf would entitle the Board to levy
           a fee which is nothing other  than  wharfage  charges  collected
           under  the  Schedule  of  rates   mentioned   hereinabove.    To
           appreciate this argument we set out the  definition  of  ‘wharf’
           and ‘wharfage’ from Black’s Law Dictionary as under:-

                       Wharf. A structure on the shores of navigable waters,
                 to which a vessel can be brought for loading or unloading.

                       Private wharf. One that can be used only by its owner
                 or lessee.

                       Public wharf. One that can be used by the public.




                       Wharfage 1. The fee paid  for  landing,  loading,  or
                 unloading goods  on  a  wharf.  2.  The  accommodation  for
                 loading or unloading goods on a wharf.



           We are afraid that we are unable to agree with Shri Adhyaru  for
           the reason that though GMB is the owner of the jetty  under  the
           said agreement, yet for providing  the  service  of  allowing  a
           vessel to berth at the said  jetty,  it  is  necessary  for  GMB
           itself to keep the said jetty in good order.   Wharfage  charges
           are collectible because they are  in  the  nature  of  fees  for
           services rendered.  The expenses that are defrayed by the  Board
           for the maintenance of the jetty is sought to  be  collected  as
           wharfage charges.  This amount  would  necessarily  include  all
           amounts that are spent  for  keeping  the  said  jetty  in  good
           condition including dredging so that vessels can berth alongside
           the jetty.  It is clear that so far as jetties operated  by  the
           Board are concerned, the Board itself defrays such expenses.  It
           is only in cases like the present where the jetty  is  primarily
           meant for loading and unloading goods belonging to a  particular
           private party that repair and maintenance  expenses  are  to  be
           borne by the private party and not by the Board.  It is in  this
           circumstance that we find that there is no  service,  therefore,
           rendered by GMB to UCL.

           13.   The other limb of Shri Adhyaru’s argument is that  in  any
           case UCL is a person authorized by GMB within the definition  of
           “port service” and that, therefore,  in  any  case  the  Section
           would be attracted as there is no doubt  that  wharfage  charges
           are a payment for services rendered in relation to a  vessel  or
           goods.

           14.   As can be seen from Section 32 sub-sections (3)  and  (4),
           the Board may  authorize  any  person  to  perform  any  of  the
           services mentioned in sub-section (1) of the said Section  which
           includes landing of goods at wharves.  We asked Shri Adhyaru  to
           show us where such authority is given and  his  reply  was  only
           that it was given under  the  self-same  agreement  referred  to
           hereinabove.  We are afraid that we are  unable  to  agree  with
           Shri Adhyaru.   The  authority  given  to  perform  any  of  the
           services must first and foremost be under terms  and  conditions
           as may be agreed upon by  the  Board  and  the  private  person.
           Further, under sub-Section (4) of Section 32, it is the  private
           person who is then authorized to charge or recover  any  sum  in
           respect of such service rendered.  This is conspicuously  absent
           in the aforesaid agreement.  There is no doubt on a  reading  of
           the agreement that it  is  the  Board  itself  that  charges  or
           recovers wharfage charges from the licensee - UCL and  does  not
           authorize UCL to recover such charges from other persons.   This
           being the position, it is clear that no service is rendered by a
           port or by any person authorized by such  port  and,  therefore,
           the very first condition for levy of service tax  is  absent  on
           the facts of the present case.  So far as  the  direct  berthing
           facilities provided for captive cargo is  concerned,  the  lease
           rent charged for use of the waterfront also does not include any
           service in relation to a vessel or goods and cannot be described
           as “port service”.   This being so, it is unnecessary to go into
           any of the other contentions raised by  both  parties.   To  the
           extent that the impugned judgment  is  in  conformity  with  our
           judgment, it  is  upheld.   The  appeals  of  the  revenue  are,
           therefore, dismissed accordingly.



                                            ……………………J.
                                            (A.K. Sikri)




                                            ……………………J.
                                            (R.F. Nariman)
           New Delhi;
           July 22, 2015

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