SHC orders inquiry into abuse of powers by custom officials

KARACHI: Declaring a raid conducted at locked rented ware houses and resultant search and seizure of fabric as illegal, incongruent with section 162 & 163 of the Customs Act 1969, a custom appellate bench of High Court of Sindh ordered Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to hold an inquiry.

The bench was hearing constitution petition filed by one Muhammad Hasan Nadeem and others challenging the raid at rented ware houses located in North Karachi, seizure of stored consignments of fabric.

Khawaja Shamsul Islam advocate represented the petitioners while departmental respondents including  Collector, MCC (Enforcement & Compliance). The counsel for petitioners contended that respondents acted beyond jurisdiction and violated laws particularly section 162 and 163 of the Customs Act. Admittedly, no one was available at the warehouses when the same were raided at 3 a.m on 2-10-2020. The respondents failed to follow the  section 162 of the Act, no search warrant was sought or obtained and alternative section 163 of the Act was employed in an attempt to garner the sanction of law, the counsel for petitioners argued.

It was further contended that mandatory notice under section 26 was given to the petitioners/importers.

The bench noted the quantum of goods which took three days for preparing inventory after seizure and said that in view of quantity of goods it was surprising that why recourse to section 162 was abjured by the respondents.

The bench said that once the petitioners produced copies of documents to show the lawful import, the burden was shifted on the respondent officials to prove otherwise.

The bench deciding the petitions ordered release of goods but at the same time set the respondents at liberty to resort to adjudication proceedings if they have any cogent material.

The bench also asked the petitioners to approach the trial court for quashing of FIR as well as criminal proceedings. The bench also directed the Secretary Revenue Division/Chairman FBR to conduct an inquiry in respect of the “Prima facie manifest unfettered  exercise of power by functionaries, conducting search and seizures in violation of Act and the fundamental rights inter alia with respect to livelihood and liberty enshrined in the Constitution”. The bench also ordered “appropriate proceedings against those found culpable”.

The bench also sought a report by Chairman FBR through the office of the Attorney General within 4 weeks to be submitted to the Registrar of SHC.

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