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SC : Rules against assessee; 'Ready-Mix-Concrete' distinct from 'Concrete-Mix', not exempt from duty

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SC rules in favour of Revenue, interprets Notification No. 4/1997-CE and denies exemption on ‘Ready Mix Concrete’ (RCM) holding that same distinct from ‘Concrete Mix’ (CM); Rejects assessee’s reliance on apex court decision in Simplex Infrastructures Ltd to contend that it is only when RMC is used at a place other than where it is prepared, same would become exigible to excise duty and not when it is prepared & captively used at site; States that aforesaid judgment has no application to instant case as Court had not delved into distinction / similarities between both products except stating, without any discussion, that “if RMC is produced at site then alone the assessee is entitled to exemption under the requisite notification.”; Concurs with Revenue that it is process of mixing concrete that differentiates both products, while also noting that Legislature / Govt. has always treated RMC & CM as two distinct products; Refers to explanation adduced by CBEC vide Circular dated August 12, 1996 that qualities accruing to RMC obtained through mixer far outweigh those of site mixed concrete and that RMC falls within ambit of “manufacture” u/s 2(f) of Central Excise Act, being marketable albeit with short shelf life; In view thereof, while dismissing assessee’s appeal, SC observes, “…since we are dealing with the exemption notification it has to be strict interpretation and in case of doubt, benefit has to be given to the Revenue.”; On the other hand, quashes P&H HC order which granted relief to another assessee on ground that Notification exempts all kinds of CM from payment of duty, which includes RMC as well; Observes that HC failed to discuss process of preparing CM at site, which would determine as to whether the produce could be termed as CM or could be treated as RMC; Remands case back to Adjudicating Authority to look into matter afresh keeping in view Court observations while giving liberty to parties to produce material / evidence to show how Concrete was mixed  : SC

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