KARACHI: It seems the importers and their lawyers are playing the Customs Appellate Tribunal getting different judgments from separate benches of the Tribunal in a same appeal against same case.

Customs Appellate Tribunal Bench-II on February 27, 2023 passed a judgment striking down the Adjudication order-in-original (ONO), which established evasion of revenue against M/s Agriauto Stamping Pvt Ltd.

Customs Intelligence and Investigation had lodged a contravention report against M/s Agriauto that the importer is involved in evasion of duty and taxes on the import of ‘Catalyst’ by mis-declaring its classification under PCT 7115.9000, whereas it is correctly classifiable under PCT 8421.9990, which attracts higher taxes.

Customs Adjudication, after due process and hearing, ordered recovery of evaded revenue of Rs950 million against 137 consignments of same product.

M/s Agriauto approached Customs Appellate Tribunal vide Appeal No. K-799/2022 directed against ONO No.964/2021. Bench-III of Customs Appellate Tribunal heard the case and in its judgment dated July 06, 2022 upheld the order of Customs Adjudication.

Interestingly, the importer again approached the Tribunal, and a similar sized Bench-II comprising Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh and Dr. Naveed-ul-Haq accepted the appeal and struck down Adjudication order establishing evasion and ordering recovery of government revenue.

This judgment was issued on February 25, 2023 and was signed by both members. Even more interestingly, Member Judicial –II Dr. Naveed-ul-Haq had been transferred to Bench-I in Lahore by Law Division on February 21, 2023.

Appellate tribunals have come under severe criticism for corruption and inefficiency. An official said the Tribunal is the graveyard for the cases involving government revenue. However, cases offering corruption and money making opportunities, such cases are swiftly decided. The tribunal is marred with corruption as it decisions are routinely against department and in favor of importers.

Officials have advocated purging the customs Appellate tribunal of corruption by appointing members and chairman on merit alone. Customs Appellate Tribunal hears appeals against orders passed by 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.

By bringing in competent and honest men in the tribunal, the genuine complaints can be redressed.