KARACHI: A customs appellate bench of High Court of Sindh expressed annoyance over alleged harassment of directors of Popular Juice Industries Private Limited. The bench took exception that why raid was conducted at 2:30 am and documents were demanded at such an odd hour.

At the outset of hearing on Wednesday,  Navin Merchant, counsel for the petitioner company and its directors told  the bench comprising Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi and Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan requested that appropriate action may be taken against the respondent officials as the proceedings and FIR are based on mala-fide and has caused serious injury to the reputation of petitioners.

The bench heard the counsel at length and later held in its order that “From the perusal of contents of the instant petition and the FIR registered in the instant case, it has been observed that there are serious allegations against the Custom officers whereas it further appears that legal procedure has not been followed by the respondents while raiding at the business premises of the petitioners at the late hours of the night without issuing any statutory Notices under the Customs Act 1969. It further appears that no adjudication proceedings to determine the tax liability or the amount of duty and taxes alleged to have been evaded by the petitioner have been initiated before registering a Criminal Case. The Preventive officer who raided the premises was confronted to refer to the relevant provisions of the Customs Act 1969 which authorizes such raid of business premises at 1.00 a.m without issuing any Statutory Notice or producing authorization by competent authority/ Court in response to which he could not submit any reasonable explanation and submitted that he was authorized by his superior officers to conduct the raid. We would direct the concerned Collector to be in attendance on the next date and assist the Court as to whether, the respondents were duly authorized to conduct raid of the premises of the petitioners in the manner as disclosed in the FIR and the memo of the petition and what was the material available to justify the registration of FIR in the instant case “

The bench with above order deferred further hearing till Sept 16 with the direction to the Raiding team and IO to be in attendance. The bench also restrained the respondents from taking any coercive action against the petitioners. The bench allowed an application by petitioners seeking exemption from personal appearance.

The FIR No ASO 374/2020 (HQ) dated 02-09-2020 pertains to alleged recovery of smuggled dry milk powder in the Popular Juice Industries factory which is engaged in the manufacturing of fruit juices and flavoured milk. The ASO booked Imamuddin Shoqeen, Imran Ali Roshan, Shahbaz Ali Malik, Zubair Imam Malik, Ms Azra Bano and Zulfiqar Ali Roshan in the said FIR and conducted raids for their arrest. They were later admitted to pre-arrest protective bail against a surety of Rupees 100000 each and Personal Bond in the like amount on 4-9-2020 by the SHC bench in the instant petition.