It is unjustified to not renew a courier licence for international transportation if the applicant is given the chance to explain
Fact and issue of the case
The Petitioner is engaged in international carriage of time sensitive documents and parcels on scale. Petitioner was registered as an authorized courier under the Courier Imports and Exports (Clearance) Regulations 1998. The Petitioner is aggrieved by the orders passed by the Commissioner of Customs, Airport Special Cargo dated 19 August 2019 and 30 September 2019 refusing to renew the registration of the Petitioner.
The registration and recognition of a courier as ‘authorized courier’ is regulated by the Courier Imports and Exports (Clearance) Regulations 1998 and the Courier Imports and Exports (Electronic Declaration and Processing) Regulations, 2010. These Regulations have been issued pursuant to the powers vested under section 157 of the Customs Act. The Regulations of 2010 define ‘authorized courier’ under Regulation 3(b) as a person in relation to import and export of goods, as a person engaged in the international transportation of time-sensitive documents or goods on door-to-door delivery basis. The Regulations 5 and 6 deal with clearance of the imported goods. Regulation 7 contemplates application for registration of authorized courier and states that every person intending to operate as authorized courier shall make an application in a prescribed form. The conditions to fulfilled by the applicant are provided in Regulation 8. The application received has to be scrutinized as per Regulation 9.
The Petitioner was registered as authorized courier with the Department of Customs. According to the Petitioner, since 1996 its courier license was renewed from time to time. The renewal granted to the Petitioner on 23 June 2017 was for two years. Before the expiry of the registration period, Petitioner made an application for renewal on 8 April 2019 as per the Regulations. The Deputy Commissioner of Customs called upon the Petitioner to furnish certain documents as regards the application for renewal which documents were furnished by the Petitioner on 4 June 2019 and 18 June 2019. The renewal application was rejected by impugned orders dated 19 August 2019 and 30 September 2019. The Petitioner filed an appeal before the Appellate Tribunal where there was difference of opinion between the members upon the issue of maintainability of the appeal and it was referred to the third member. Upon opinion being received from the third member, the Appellate Bench dismissed the appeal by order dated 27 January 2022 holding that it is not maintainable, after which the Petitioner is before us.
Observation by the tribunal
The tribunal has heard Mr.Prakash Shah, learned counsel for the Petitioner and Mr.Karan Adik, learned counsel for the Respondents.
Apart from the contention of the Petitioner that the appeal was maintainable, it is also sought to be contended that while refusing to issue the license or renew the license, no opportunity of any hearing was given to the Petitioner. The Petitioner has relied upon decision of the Division Bench of this court in the case of A.S.Vason and sons Vs. Union of India1. The learned counsel for the Respondents contended that in the case of A.S.Vason and sons the Petitioner therein had sought hearing and the Division Bench on the facts and circumstances of the case observed that hearing needs to be given to the Petitioner therein. The learned counsel for the Respondents also sought to contend that the Tribunal rightly dismissed the appeal as not maintainable as renewing the registration license, is merely an administrative order.
From the scheme of the Regulation 2010 it is clear that the Regulations themselves contemplate an application for renewal. Grant of renewal thereof is conditional upon factual position specified in the Regulations. Not granting registration at the first instance would stand on a different footing than a case where registration is renewed from time to time over a long period and then not renewed.
The Petitioner was an authorized courier for almost 25 years and the registration was renewed from time to time. Petitioner states that it has invested substantial amounts towards the business. Therefore, the non-renewal clearly had civil consequences and severe implications for the Petitioner. In these circumstances the petitioner was entitled to an opportunity to explain before taking the impugned decision. The decision taken without giving opportunity to explain will thus have to be set aside. Non-renewal therefore had serious implications for the Petitioner. We therefore are of the opinion that the view taken by the Division Bench in the case of A.S.Vasan and sons should also be extended to the Petitioner. In the facts and circumstances of the case the opportunity to the Petitioner be given in form of hearing.
We make it clear that our observation in this decision are only in the context of extending principles of natural justice to the case and not on merits and the Respondent No.2 will decide on its merits. Periods above will commence from the date order is uploaded.
In the result, appeal of the assessee is allowed and ruled in favour of the assessee
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