1. Appeal under Section 81 of the Gold (Control)Act, 1968, praying that in the circumstances stated therein, the Tribunal will be pleased to set aside the orders of the Additional Collector of Central Excise, Cochin, rejecting an application for renewal of the appellant's gold dealer's licence.
2. These appeals coming up for orders upon perusing the records and upon hearing the arguments of Shri P.N. Menon, representative of the appellant and upon hearing the arguments of Shri S.K. Choudhury, Senior Departmental Representative for the respondent, the Tribunal makes the following: 3. This is an appeal against Order C. No. XVII/7/54/82 GC Pol.
dated--Jan. 83 of the Additional Collector of Central Excise, Cochin, rejecting an application of the appellant for renewal of his gold dealer's licence for the year 1982. The Additional Collector found that certain alterations had been made in the premises approved for carrying on business as a gold dealer--a strong room had been constructed underground and a stair-case provided for entry to a first floor which had been constructed after the approval of the ground plan way back in 1975. This, the Additional Collector found, violated the conditions imposed under Rule 3(c) of the Gold (Control) (Licensing of dealers) Rules, 1969; in the application for renewal it has been indicated that there was "no change in the approved premises", whereas changes had been made as above; therefore, there is contravention of Rule 3(d) of the Licensing Rules.
4. The representative of the appellant stated that the construction of second and third floors to the building had been done with the approval of the municipal authorities; that the construction was going on should have been known to the Department whose officers visited the premises often enough. Though he tried to argue that the licence is for a particular door number and hence any change in the actual building itself does not make any differene to the premises for purposes of Licensing Rules, in the light of details required to be submitted under Sl. No. 2 of the Schedule to the application form against which a ground plan had been submitted by the appellant along with his application when the licence was originally applied for in 1975, he did not pursue this point.
5. The Senior Departmental Representative urges that non-renewal of licence is maintainable on the facts of the case; control over the type of premises used from the point of view of ensuring security, access by others etc., is an important aspect of control over the sale of gold ornaments. The plea of the appellant that the second and third floors had not been completed till April, 1982 is not correct, as gold ornaments, bill book etc. were actually found in the third floor when the officers made a seizure in September, 1981. There was also a live telephone on that floor.
6. The appellant's plea is that he had shifted his stock-in-trade to the third floor as repair work was going on in the ground floor.
However, the finding of the stock-in-trade in the third floor in September, 1981 does not accord with the plea that the completion of the building was done only in April, 1982. The application for licence, form G.S. 6, requires details of each room to be given in the Schedule to it. Instead of giving details, a ground plan was submitted and was approved by the Department.
7. In the circumstances of the case, we find that gold ornaments were not kept in the premises approved when a gold dealer's licence was issued to the appellant initially and renewed year after year.
Technically, the plea about alterations to the ground floor of the building is also maintainable, though the provision of a strong room is an added factor of safety of the ornaments. In the above view, the finding of the Additional Collector that there has been violation of Rule 3(d) of the Licensing Rules is maintainable. However, his rejection of the application for renewal of the licence for 1982 has thrown the appellant out of business, one in which he has been engaged since 1975 and apparently without blemish until the present case started. (Various versions have been put before us regarding what happened immediately following the discovery of alterations to the building. As the relevant cases are not before us, we do not express any view on any of them). The appellant has already suffered mental agony and expenses of a prolonged litigation in trying to secure a licence. We, therefore, think it only proper if the order rejecting the application for renewal of licence is set aside and the appellant be deemed to have had a valid licence for 1982.
8. In the second appeal, the application for renewal of a licence for 1983 onwards has been rejected by the Additional Collector vide his order C. No. XVII/7/15/ 83 GC. Pol. dated 7.3.83 on the basis that there was no licence for 1982. Hence the question of renewing it for 1983 onwards does not arise. In the light of our finding in regard to 1982, the case of the petitioner for issue of a licence for 1983 onwards would require reconsideration. We, therefore, set aside the above order of the Additional Collector without prejudice to the right of the appellant to press his claim for a licence from 1983 onwards and of the Department to deal with the claim on merits, otherwise than on the circumstances which have led to the present appeals. As the matter is of importance to the appellant in that his continuation in the business or otherwise will depend on the decision of the Additional Collector, we also direct that the question regarding the issue of licence be disposed of within a month from date.