KARACHI: Several eyebrows have been raised on the directives of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) making it mandatory for the Customs formations to seek approval of Chief Collector prior to initiation of criminal proceedings under Section 32-A of the Customs Act, 1969.
The instructions were issued through amendments in earlier instructions circulated vide Circular No. 10(2)L&P/05 dated June 03, 2009, but interestingly the amendments were not uploaded on the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) website.
Moreover, the amendment was issued without any mention of the authority under any Act or Ordinance, which enables Board to make such instructions.
Since the instructions regarding approval of Chief Collector prior to initiation of criminal proceedings under Section 32-A of the Act were issued in a suspicious manner, a large number of Customs officers and officials are unaware of this development.
It may be recalled that the authority to approve proceedings under Section 32-A were with the Collector, but the same then were transferred to the FBR and now Chief Collector has this authority.
It is mandatory to invoke Section 32-A in case of gross mis-declaration, violation of import policy, submission of fake/forged documents and fiscal fraud; and it is up to the discretion of the Collector whether FIR is lodged or the contravention report is forwarded for adjudication.
A verbal survey conducted by Customnews.pk suggested that a number of senior Customs officers are of the view that the instruction regarding approval of Chief Collector was illegal and without legal authority.
A senior officer said that in case Section 32-A was invoked, the criminal proceedings were implied and it did not require any approval whatsoever.
An official said that this instruction would open doors for corruption, as happened in past the appropriate sections were not imposed in fiscal fraud cases because of the nexus between the importers and officials.
Section 32-A of Customs Act 1969 provided that any person submits fake-forged documents, provides untrue information about the good and importer and commits fiscal fraud with any matter related to Customs, he/she will be guilty of an offence under this section.
The Act does not require any approval from any authority for the initiation of proceedings in this regard. Hence, pending the proceedings for want of Chief Collector’s approval would tantamount to obstruction of justice.