1. The short question which falls for determination in this petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is about the validity of an exemption notification dated September 20, 1979 issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Department to Revenue, in exercise of powers conferred by sub-section (2) of Section 25 of the Customs Act. The Order recites that in the light of shortage of caustic soda within the country, it has been decided to import 10,000 tonnes of caustic soda to make good the shortage in the local production. It further recites that since the landed cost of the imported product, after payment of full customs duty, would make the imported goods costlier than the price at which the indigenously produced caustic soda is being sold, it was felt necessary to extend exemption from customs duty on the imported caustic soda. Accordingly, the Central Government exempted import of 10,000 tonnes of caustic soda, to be imported through the State Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Corporation of India Ltd. from the whole of the customs duty and the auxiliary duty of customs leviable under sub-section (1) of Section 31 of the Finance Act.
2. The Petitioner No. 1 is a Private Limited Company, and is a registered Exports House carrying on business of importing and exporting various commodities, including soda. The petitioners claim that the exemption granted to State Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Corporation of India Ltd. is in violation of provisions of Section 25 of the Customs Act. Section 25 of the Customs Act reads as under :
'25. (1) if the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary in the public interest so to do, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, exempt generally either absolutely or subject to such conditions (to be fulfilled before or after clearance) as may be specified in the notification goods of any specified description from the whole or any part duty of customs leviable thereon.
(2) If the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary in the public interest so to do, it may, by special order in each case, exempt from the payment of duty, under circumstances of an exceptional nature to be stated in such order, any goods on which duty is leviable.'
Under sub-section (2) of Section 25 the Central Government has exempted from payment of customs duty on import of 10,000 tonnes of caustic soda by Corporation. Shri Vahanvati, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners, submitted that the powers under sub-section (2) can be exercised provided it is necessary in the public interest and secondly, under circumstances of an exceptional nature. The learned counsel urged that the respondents have failed to establish that either of the two conditions were in existence while exercising the powers. Unfortunately, the Government has not cared to file any return in spite of pendency of this petition in this Court for over five years, and in spite of the fact that the hearing of the petition was once adjourned to give an opportunity to the Government to file the return. The submission of Shri Vahanvati that the exemption was granted without satisfaction of the Central Government that it is necessary in the public interest so to do cannot be accepted in the light of the contents of the order dated September 20, 1979. The order recites that there was shortage of caustic soda within the country and to overcome the shortage it was decided to import 10,000 tonnes of caustic soda through the State Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Corporation of India Ltd. The order also recites that in case the exemption was not granted, the imported goods would have become costlier than the price at which the indigenously produced caustic soda is being sold. These circumstances are undoubtedly sufficient to warrant a conclusion that action of the Central Government was in the public interest. Shri Vahanvati submitted that even assuming it to be so, the powers under sub-section (2) of Section 25 can be exercised only under circumstances of an exceptional nature and there is nothing on record to indicate existence of such circumstances. The grievance of the learned counsel is that the Government had granted exemption in favour of the State Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Corporation of India Ltd., and there is no rationale or logic why such exemption is not made available to other importers of caustic soda. There is considerable merit in the submission of the learned counsel, but I am afraid the petitioners would not be entitled to secure any relief in this petition for the reasons to be stated hereinafter.
3. The exemption notification is dated September 20, 1979, and the petition is filed in this Court on December 7, 1979. The relief sought by Shri Vahanvati is that the advantage of the exemption should be made available to all the importers of caustic soda. It is not possible to grant such relief, because it is not possible for this Court to decide for what period the exemption should be made available to all the importers of caustic soda and in respect of what quantity. In case this Court grants relief of such a vague nature, it would lead to chaos and therefore the relief of exemption from payment of duty to the importers of caustic soda is not possible.
4. Shri Vahanvati them submitted that as the exemption notification is not in compliance with the requirements of sub-section (2) of Section 25 of the Act, it should be struck down. I am not inclined to grant this relief in the present petition, because the exemption was granted to the State Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Corporation in the year 1979 and the import was made in pursuance thereof immediately. Now, more than five years had lapsed from the date of import and by striking down the notification, the petitioners would derive no advantage, save and except, satisfaction that even State Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Corporation is required to pay duty. In my judgement, it is not necessary to grant such relief, even assuming that the notification is not valid under sub-section (2) of Section 25 of the Act. In view of this, the petition must fail.
5. Accordingly, rule is discharged. Thinking into consideration the fact that Union of India has not cared to file the return in spite of adjournment, in my judgement, this is a fit case where respondent No. 1, Union of India, should be directed to bear the costs of the petition.