Builders’ Association of India v. State of Karnataka & Ors.

COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMChief Justice M.H. Kania, Justice J.S. Verma, Justice S.C. Agrawal, Justice Y. Dayal, Justice A.S. Anand


This is a case between the Builders’ Association of India with Karnataka for making the Karnataka Sales Tax Act, which was impugned in nature for being discriminatory in many ways. In order to find the Constitutionality of the said Act, they filed a writ petition before Honourable Court followed by an appeal which was dismissed. In this case Article 366 (29A (B)) read with Article 286 were discussed along with the impugned Act and Central Sales Tax Act. This majorly deals with levy of tax power of the state and central in matter of “work contract”.


The facts of the case are as follows: The appellant is an association of contractors engaged in the work of construction. The provisions of the Karnataka Sales Tax Act, which have been impugned by the appellant in writ petition, were introduced in the said enactment after the Constitution (Forty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1983 whereby clause (29-A) was introduced in Article 366 of the Constitution so as to enable State Legislatures to impose tax on transfer of property in goods (whether as goods or in some other form) involved in the execution of a works contract. The validity of Forty-sixth Amendment came up for consideration before this Court.


The main issue in the case was: Whether or not the State has legislative competency on enacted the Karnataka Sales Tax Act.

Summary of court decision and judgment

The contention of the appellant was rejected by the High Court. The said amendment was upheld as valid and it was declared that sales tax laws passed by the legislatures of States levying taxes on the transfer of property in goods (whether as goods or in some other form) involved in the execution of a works contract are subject to the restrictions and conditions mentioned in each clause or sub-clause of Article 286 of the Constitution.The Court further declared that whatever might be the situational differences of individual cases, the constitutional limits on the taxing power of the State as are applicable to ‘works contracts’ represented by “building-contracts” in the context of the expanded concept of “tax on the sale or purchase of goods” as constitutionally defined under Article 366(29-A), would equally apply to other species of ‘works contracts’ with the requisite situational modifications.

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Twyford Tea Co. Ltd. v. Kerala State has laid down that the legislature has a “wide range of selection and freedom in appraisal not only in the objects of taxation and the manner of taxation but also in the determination of the rate or rates applicable”. Fixing the rate of tax, it is permissible to fix a uniform rate of tax for the various goods involved in the execution of a works contract which rate may be different from the rates of tax fixed in respect of sales or purchase of these goods as a separate Article. Tax was imposed on cooked food sold in luxury hotels while there was exemption from tax on cooked food sold in modest eating places. Classification based on the use of the goods for the purpose of imposition of the tax was upheld in these cases.


Certain deductions which come under work contract makes tax only to those goods with different tax rate fixed by the schedule. Mostly the duty of the State is to follow the guidelines along with elaborated procedure according to the needs. So this power given to the state sometimes can override its power too that can be foreseen only by the court of law which they held correct law.

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