1. Appeal under Section 129A of the Customs Act, 1962 praying that in the circumstances stated therein, the Tribunal will be pleased to set aside the order of the Additional Collector of Customs & Central Excise, Guntur, dated 31-8-84 in C. No. VIII/10/12/83-Cus.
2. This appeal coming up for orders upon perusing the records and upon hearing the arguments of Shri Vijayaraghavan, Consultant for the appellant and upon hearing the arguments of Shri C.V. Krishnan, Departmental Representative for the respondent, the Tribunal makes the following order : 3. Since the issue involved in the appeal turns on a technical point and since both parties have no objection to the appeal itself being disposed of, the same is being taken up for disposal.
4 This appeal is directed against the order of the Additional Collector of Customs & Central Excise, Guntur, referred to supra, inter alia, imposing a penalty of Rs. 7,500 on the appellant under Section 112(b) of the Act.
5. The learned consultant for the appellant submitted that the impugned order has been passed primarily on the basis of the statement recorded from the appellant which is inculpatory and confessional in nature. The appellant challenged the veracity of the alleged inculpatory statement recorded from him and prayed for an opportunity to cross-examine the detecting officer and the connected witnesses. The adjudicating authority not only negatived the request of the appellant but also chose to observe that no useful purpose would be served by the appellant cross-examining those witnesses. Since this approach of the adjudicating authority indicated a bias and since no opportunity for cross-examination was also given to the appellant it was contended that the impugned order is not legally sustainable.
6. The learned DR submitted that no doubt an opportunity to cross-examine the detecting officer and the witnesses has not been afforded to the appellant but nevertheless, it cannot be said that the adjudicating authority had a pre-conceived bias in reaching the conclusion which he did.
7. I have considered the submissions of the parties herein. When reliance has been placed on the statement recorded from the appellant which is inculpatory in nature and confessional in character, an opportunity to cross-examine the officer who recorded the statement as well as the witnesses connected therewith should have been afforded to the appellant in conformity with the principles of natural justice, if the appellant had asked for such a cross-examination. It would have been desirable if the adjudicating authority had not negatived the request and more so with an observation that no useful purpose would be served by such cross-examination. I agree with the submissions of the learned DR that the adjudicating authority was never actuated by any pre-conceived bias in approaching the issue involved for consideration.
Anyhow, since an opportunity for cross-examination of the officer who recorded the statement of the appellant and the witnesses, as desired by the appellant, had not been afforded, the order suffers from an infirmity in being violative of the principles of natural justice. In this view of the matter, the impugned order is set aside and the matter is remitted back to the Additional Collector of Customs & Central Excise, Guntur, for fresh adjudication in the light of the observations made herein.