[Customs Act] Raj HC | DRI officer is not Competent Authority to issue show cause notice and adjudicate the same as “proper officer”; Show cause notice set aside

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Akil Kumar, CJ and Sameer Kureshi, J. allowed the writ petition and set aside the proceedings issued by show cause notice and subsequent demands confirmed by OIO. 

The case of the petitioner is that he is a Customs House Agent and the co-petitioners were importers engaged in the import of Glass Chatons at Customs ports at Jaipur. One investigation was conducted by Additional Director, DRI (Zonal) Unit Ahmedabad, in connected matter by DRI, Jaipur who after the investigation demanded custom duty under Section 28 of the Act of 1962 and proposed confiscation of the seized goods and imposition of penalty under Section 124, 112, 114A of the Act, 1962. The show cause notice was issued as back as dated 06.08.2014 and in connected matter in 2019. By way of present petitions, the show cause notice (SCN) issued by officers of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) under Sections 28 and 124 of the Customs Act, 1962 (in short, ‘Act’ of 1962), are challenged.

Counsel for petitioner submitted that the DRI Officers are not proper officers and show cause notice issued by them are ab initio void, illegal and lacks jurisdiction.

Counsel for respondents submitted that a number of writ petitions were filed before various High Courts for quashing of show cause notices issued by DRI Officers in which directions have been given to first approach Adjudicating Authority to decide the issue of jurisdiction.

The Court in the judgment titled M/s Canon India Private Ltd. v. Commissioner of Customs, AIR 2021 SC 1699 observed

  1. From a conjoint reading of Sections 2(34) and 28 of the Act, it is manifest that only such a Customs Officer who has been assigned the specific functions of assessment and reassessment of duty in the jurisdictional area where the import concerned has been affected, by either the Board or the Commissioner of Customs, in terms of Section 2(34) of the Act is competent to issue notice under section 28 of the Act. Any other reading of Section 28 would render the provisions of Section 2(34) of the Act otiose inasmuch as the test contemplated under Section 2(34) of the Act is that of specific conferment of such functions.”

The court thus observed that On perusal of judgment referred above and relying on provisions of Section 2(34) which defines “proper officer”, Section 6 which defines “functions and powers of custom officer” and Section 28 which refers to “procedure of demand and recovery by the proper officer” having jurisdiction to issue show cause notice and to carry out adjudication, we hold that the entire proceedings initiated by officers of DRI in as much as by issuance of show cause notice under Section 28/124 of the Customs Act lacks jurisdiction and are without any authority of law because the present show cause notice is not issued by custom officer but by DRI officer who has not been assigned specific function/power under Section 6 to issue show cause notice U/S 28 of the Act of 1962. DRI officer is not Competent Authority to issue show cause notice and adjudicate the same as “proper officer”. The Act, the notification relied upon do not define and bring the DRI officers within four corners of “proper officers” having functions and powers to act under Section 28 of the Act of 1962.

The Court held “The proceedings issued by show cause notice and subsequent demands confirmed by OIO are set aside, as prayed in the writ petitions.”

[Fairdeal Shipping Agency Pvt Ltd v. Joint Commissioner of Customs (Preventive), Jaipur; 2022 SCC OnLine Raj 411; decided on 09-02-2022]


Appearances:

For Petitioner(s): Mr. Arun Goyal

For Respondent(s): Mr. Kinshuk Jain


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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