Eradicate corruption, make appointments on merit in custom Appellate tribunal, says lawyers

KARACHI: The lawyers practising on customs, inland revenue have advocated purging the custom Appellate tribunal of  corruption and instead of disbanding it improve the same by appointing members and chairman on merit alone.   They were expressing their views in the backdrop of an interview by federal law Minister Dr Farogh Basin who hinted at rapping up the Special Customs Appellate Tribunal which hears appeals against orders passed hierarchy of Pakistan Customs including adjudication proceedings in disputed of import/export custom duty, taxes, Sales tax etc. The single member or double member bench hear cases depending on nature of controversy. Haider Shaikh advocate, a senior lawyer and partner in renowned law firm Franklin Law Associates said that instead of doing away with an Appellate forum, if there  are complaints, the same could be addressed by taking measures to curb corruption. The best way would be appointments on merit through FPSC. Are custom officers free of corruption, he asked adding that instead of depriving importers of a legal forum,it must be reformed and made corruption free. Disbanding a forum is no solution to a problem he said. The step would need reference to the Legislature, amending section 194 of the Customs Act 1969 which is a complex task in present circumstances. Zia-ul- Hassan advocate, President, Customs & Sales Tax Practitioners Association was of the view that by bringing in competent and honest men in the tribunal, the genuine complaints can be redressed. The Federal government is empowered to constitute or disband the tribunal and it is their sole prerogative,he said. Khalid Rajpar, another senior lawyer who represents Pakistan Customs as leading counsel backed the idea of disbanding the tribunal. The tribunal is marred with corruption as it’s decisions were routinely against department and in favor of importers,he said. To a question, he said that by amending rules,single judge of a High Court could hear the appeal to be followed by an intra court appeal before a division bench.

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