SHC allows Special Criminal Revision Applications in betel nuts case Accused ordered to surrender before trial court in seven days

KARACHI: Justice Fahim Ahmed Siddiqui of High Court of Sindh hearing nine identical revision applications filed by Director of Directorate of Intelligence & Investigations (DIT), Pakistan Customs assailing judgment by Special Court for Customs, Excise and Taxation in betel nuts cases.

The trial court deciding the case of alleged smuggling filed by the custom department returned charge sheets to the department holding that betel nuts are not notified items in schedule of section 2 (s) and as their was no restriction on import of betel nuts at the time they were brought into the country, the recovered betel nuts do not fall under category of “smuggled goods”.

The single judge of SHC heard Zain Jatoi advocate appearing for applicant Director DIT along with Ashique Ali Anwar Rana while respondents/importers/accused were represented by Aqil Ahmed advocate.

Zain Jatoi advocate for applicant department submitted that the judgment by the trial court is patently illegal and against the spirit of law. The construction of law as done by the Presiding Officer of the trial court “counteracts to statutory definition” of  smuggling”. Any permissible or restricted goods if brought in the country without payment of duty, such act will be considered as “smuggling”, contended the lawyer for the applicant adding that import of betel nuts is subject to phytosanitary certification from the country of export.

Aqil Ahmed advocate representing the respondents/accused/importers supporting the judgment of trial court argued that import of specified and notified articles amount to smuggling and import of permissible items will not be smuggling  even if the duty is not paid and in such situation only adjudication proceedings are proper leading to recovery of  duty plus fine. It was further contended that betel nut import is continuing with some restrictions and in case of respondents, they have filed GD’s. He also contended that  consignments in dispute were imposed prior to placing of restriction.

The SHC judge after detailed hearing held that if there is “prohibition and restriction” on certain goods, same could not ne brought in or taken out of Pakistan breaching such restrictions or prohibition or without payment of custom duty or taxes. The custom authorities were justified to locate and seize such goods wherever the same is available and also to proceed  against the persons who are in possession of or involved in bringing, trading, abetting and connivance in respect of such goods. The SHC judge further held that as the seize betel nuts were brought  into the country without ‘Phytosanitary’ certificate and without payment of duty and taxes the same will be considered as “smuggled goods”.

 The bench ordered the accused/respondents to surrender before the trial court within seven days. They were also allowed to file application for acquittal if they considered that they were falsely implicated into the case (s) and the trial court was directed to decide their cases.

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