KARACHI: Government has promulgated COVID-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Ordinance, 2020, which empowers Deputy Commissioners (PAS) to take action against Customs officers and staff for failing to act upon information or complaints of the District Administration regarding smuggling.

“Any official of the District Administration, not below the rank of BPS-17, may, upon complaint or information from any quarter or upon his own knowledge or information, communicate such information to Customs officer with regard to any contravention under this Ordinance.

“Upon receipt of information, the Customs officer shall be under an obligation to process the information and take appropriate action, strictly in accordance with the provisions of this Ordinance.

“In case the Customs officer does not satisfactorily comply with the obligations, the Deputy Commissioner (PAS) concerned shall forward the report to the appropriate authority to take action against the delinquent officer in accordance with the law”.

The Ordinance provides that when an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect, either upon information from anyone or on his own, that a person is carrying with him or keeping in a conveyance or have stored scheduled articles meant for smuggling, he/she may stop and search such person, any baggage, luggage or belongings, or conveyance, without any warrant. These powers shall only be exercised within a distance of five kilometers from any international border or within the premises of airports.

The scheduled goods include foreign currency, gold and silver, precious stones, edibles and oils, chemical fertilizers, and therapeutic goods.

It may be mentioned here that all offences punishable under this Ordinance shall be cognizable and non bailable.

A Special Court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Ordinance, upon written information by the officer. An officer may arrest any person without warrant against whom there is credible information that he has committed an offence under this Ordinance.

The Federal Government shall, upon consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan and by notification in the official Gazette, confer the powers of the Special Court on any Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge and specify their area of jurisdiction.

A person aggrieved by an order of conviction and sentence under this Ordinance may file an appeal before the High Court concerned within thirty days of the said order.

Anyone, other than officials of the federal, provincial or local governments, who provides an information to an officer with regard to any act or acts of smuggling, which results in conviction and transfer of funds into the government exchequer, shall be entitled to a reward equivalent to ten percent of the amount transferred to the government exchequer, in the manner as may be prescribed.

The Ordinance provides that when an officer, has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is engaged or is likely to engage in any act or transaction of smuggling or may do anything which may facilitate such an act, or is known as a habitual smuggler, such person may be arrested without warrant and detained by an order in writing.

The Ordinance provides the burden of proof to prove innocence would be on the accused, while no penal action would be taken against authorities for acting in good faith.

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