KARACHI: The Finance Bill of 2024 has introduced a comprehensive framework for the functioning of the Customs Appellate Tribunals under the Customs Act. The bill specifies the jurisdiction, powers, and responsibilities of the tribunals, marking a pivotal step in the country’s legal infrastructure for customs law.

According to the new legislation, the Appellate Tribunal will be composed of members appointed by the Federal Government. The number of members, the procedure for their appointment, and their terms and conditions will be determined by government-prescribed rules. These rules will override any conflicting provisions in Section 219 of the Customs Act or the Federal Public Service Commission Ordinance of 1977, among other laws.

Current members and the Chairman of the Appellate Tribunal are assured continuity in their positions under the same terms as before the enactment of the Finance Act, 2024, until their terms expire, unless they are removed earlier based on specific grounds outlined in the act.

Eligibility criteria for appointment as a member of the Appellate Tribunal include:

  • Being an advocate of the High Court with no less than fifteen years of experience, specializing in Customs Laws, and having represented at least fifty customs cases across various forums.
  • Holding the position of an officer in the Customs Service of Pakistan at BS-21 or above.
  • Serving as an officer in the Customs Service of Pakistan at BS-20 for at least three years.

The Chairman of the Appellate Tribunal will be selected from among the members meeting the qualifications mentioned above and will serve a three-year term, with the possibility of reappointment by the Federal Government.

Members, including the Chairman, are set to retire upon reaching the age of sixty-two, while those under clauses (b) and © will retire upon reaching the age of superannuation as per service regulations. However, they can be removed prior to term completion or superannuation by the Federal Government based on the recommendations of a performance review committee, for reasons including inefficiency or misconduct.

The operational procedures of the Appellate Tribunal, such as bench constitution, case management, case distribution, and related matters, will be governed by rules established under this new section of the bill.

This legislative update is expected to streamline the adjudication process of customs cases and enhance the efficiency of the Customs Appellate Tribunals in Pakistan.