Gujarat HC: In case of delayed issuance of notice confiscated goods should be returned
Fact and Issue of the case
The petitioner is a sole proprietor of JBM Textiles, Surat and is engaged in the business of textile trading and export. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (‘the DRI’ hereinafter), Ahmedabad Zonal Unit, Ahmedabad had, on receipt of intelligence, searched the office premise of the petitioner on dated 03.04.2019 where the cash amount of Rs.35,99,000/- belonging to the petitioner and his family members and two mobile phones also were seized by the officers. Panchnama was drawn on seizure by the officers where the signature of the petitioner was taken on 04.04.2019 which as explained by him, was a forcible act thrust upon him by the respondents. The statement of the petitioner was recorded on 04.04.2019, after the panchnama proceedings dated 03.04.2019. There was no proposal for confiscation of seized cash of Rs.35,99,000/- and also of mobile phones, computer and documents seized during this proceeding. A show cause notice came to be issued on 27.11.2020 in respect of the alleged illegal export by one M/s.Amira Impex in connivance of number of other persons which included the petitioner, as alleged by the respondents. This show cause notice was received by the petitioner on 14.12.2020. 2.4 As averred by the petitioner, 19 months elapsed after the seizure. No notice since had been issued within a period of six months as statutorily prescribed from date of the seizure, the seized cash and mobile phones were needed to be returned to the petitioner and his family, hence, this petition.
Observation of the court
In the instant case, admittedly there has been no provisional release of the seized goods. Further extension of six months with the reasoned order by the Principal Commissioner of Customs or Commissioner of Customs also is completely missing. The period of six months from the date of signature expired on 03.10.2019. Even further period of six months as provided in the first proviso to Section 110(2) also got over on 03.04.2020. Of course, in absence of any order, much less reasoned order by prescribed authority, extension would need to be disregarded yet, the respondents chose not to return the seized currency or mobile phones and the request of the petitioner has not been addressed nor replied to.
Noticing that the period prescribed under the law has already lapsed long before the show cause notice has been issued, this Court needs to intervene for this being a clear violation of statutory provisions of section 110 and other provisions of Customs Act, these items are required to be returned to the petitioner.
The Court notices that nothing has been explained in the entire reply of 27 paragraphs with regard to the non compliance of the statutory mandate under Section 110(1)(2) read with Section 124 of the Act. It is quite unfathomable as to why the time limit is not adhered to and issuance of the show cause notice has been delayed beyond the statutory time period and hence, intervention will be necessary at the end of this Court by keeping open the rights of the respondents to initiate adjudication process afresh in accordance with law. Resultantly, present petition is Respondents shall return the cash and articles/goods to the petitioner not later than period of eight weeks seized from the petitioner. Respondents shall be at liberty to initiate action of adjudication, in accordance with law, if permissible under the law otherwise.
The court disposed off the petition and ruled in favour of the taxpayer