Tribunal declares orders by custom hierarchy in “breach of natural justice, law”

KARACHI: The Customs Appellate Tribunal, bench I comprising Muhammad Nadeem Qureshi, Member Judicial (I) and Muhammad Yahya, Member Technical (I) deciding an appeal filed by Asif Textile Trading held that “orders passed during hierarchy of customs were based on adequate breach of natural justice and law”.

The tribunal also held that impugned orders suffered from “grave legal infirmities” and thus are illegal and ab-initio. Being the custodian of law, the courts are required to maintain the norms of justice and equity, litigants are to be respected not because of Courts’ power to legalize injustice on technical ground, the tribunal observed.

The bench earlier heard Nadeem Ahmed Mirza advocate representing the appellant. The counsel maintained that the appellant is an importer of Polyester filaments and imported 72 consignments during the period 19-12-2013 to 03-01-2014. The clearing process was completed with appellant claiming payment of sales tax and income tax at reduced rates. The appellant claimed to be duly registered with Inland Revenue and showed his status to be of an “Active Tax payer”. However the Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigations FBR blocked the ‘User ID’ and registration was also suspended. A contravention report was prepared alleging that the appellant despite being non-active and suspended imported the consignments worth rupees 268456,049 and manage to obtain clearance depriving the exchequer of rupees 62,577,105 in respect of sales tax, advance sales tax and withholding tax. A show cause was issued to the appellant.

The appellant filed an appeal before the tribunal, which framed a number of issues for determination that included issue of jurisdiction, status of the importer appellant at the time of filing of Goods Declaration and whether the customs officers can assume role of a collector or sales or income tax.

The bench finds all answers in negative and found from record that custom officials in excess of jurisdiction issued show cause notice and proceeded against the appellant. The tribunal allowed the appeal with stern observation but without imposing any cost upon custom officers.

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