Tambe, Actg. C.J.
1. This is an appeal against the judgment of Mr. Justice K.K. Desai of date March 29, 1962, dismissing the appellants Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, wherein he had challenged the validity of the order dated May 25, 1960 made by the Collector of Customs, respondent (No. 1) hereto, imposing a penalty of Rs. 80,000 under the provisions of Section 167(8) of the Sea Customs Act against the firm of M/s. New India Corporation, wherein the appellant was, at the material time, a partner. Facts giving rise to this appeal in brief are:
2. At the material time the appellant was a partner in a partnership concern doing business under the name and style of M/s. New India Corporation, Bombay. The firm, inter alia, was doing the business of importing plantation machinery, agricultural machinery, implements, accessories and component parts thereof. The firm was the sole agent for selling agricultural machinery and implements manufactured by a German concern Carl Platz.
3. It being found expedient to continue to prohibit, restrict or otherwise control imports and exports, the Union Legislature passed an Act in the year 1947, called 'The Imports & Exports (Control) Act, 1947'. Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of that Act provided that the Central Government may, by order published in the Official Gazette, make provision for prohibiting, restricting or otherwise controlling, in all cases or in specified classes of cases, import into and export out of India of goods. In exercise of this power conferred on it, the Central Government made an Order on December 7, 1955, called 'Imports (Control) Order, 1955.' Sub-clause (1) of Clause (3) of this Order provided:
Save as otherwise provided in this order, no person shall import any goods of the description specified in Schedule I, except under, and in accordance with, a licence or a customs clearance permit granted by the Central Government or by any officer specified in Schedule II.
In short, the said clause prohibited import of goods described in Schedule I save and except under a licence, or customs clearance permit granted by a competent authority specified in Schedule II. We are here concerned with Item No. 74 'Agricultural Implements' which inter alia also include Spraying Machines and component parts thereof. To this Item 74 we will hereafter advert in detail.
4. Now, the partnership firm was granted two import licences, one of date February 9, 1956 and the other of date March 16, 1956 to import certain articles. The copy of the import licence is not on record, but during the course of the argument, Mr. Advani showed us one of the unexhausted licences, and stated that the two licences were for the same purposes. The licence, if that be so, permits import subject to certain conditions mentioned therein of 'spare parts in power driven agricultural machinery (parts of sprayers)'. The firm placed an order sometime in August 1956 with the manufacturer Carl Platz of West Germany for sending to them 500 Express Battery Sprayers (containers) to be shipped in two or more lots to the firm, Carl Platz under their invoice No. 84141 of date October 28, 1956 purported to send:
220 'Express' Knspack liquid containers.
Brass, for Patria Power Charging sprayers.
Now, the invoice shows that 216 Express containers of higher weight were sent in 27 crates and 4 express sprayers of lower weight were sent in one crate. In all 220 Express Knspack liquid containers Were purported to have been sent under this invoice. These goods were shipped in November from Germany, and arrived in Bombay sometime in January. The Bill of Entry describes the contents of of these 28 crates as 'Spare Parts for power Agricultural Machinery.' On the arrival of the goods, the Bill of Entry was duly filed by the clearing agents of the firm in the Appraising Department of the Bombay Customs. The Appraiser of the Group concerned gave examination Order on January 7, 1957. A sample was seen by the Appraiser on January 10, 1957, and being of the view that the sample was in conformity with the Shippers' invoice, he completed the Bill of Entry and passed the consignment after accepting the import licence produced. The goods were thus cleared by the clearing agents and delivered to the firm.
5. It appears that the Customs authorities on receiving certain information and obtaining a photo-stat copy of a letter of date November 30, 1956, written by Carl Platz to the firm, formed an opinion that the firm had imported, on the strength of the said two licences, goods which were not covered by these licences and which the firm was not entitled to import. On September 30, 1957, one Gurudas S. Shirur, an officer of the Preventive Department of the Customs, presented an application to the Chief Presidency Magistrate, Bombay, purported to have been signed by the Assistant Collector of Customs, for permission to search the premises of the firm. The Chief Presidency Magistrate made an order under Section 172 of the Sea Customs Act, directing issue of warrant to search the premises of the firm for dutiable and prohibited goods viz. the machinery and the documents relating thereto mentioned in the said application. The premises of the firm were then searched on September 30, 1957 and also on October 1, 1957. After search, 10 cases of Express Battery Sprayers (containers), some loose tools, and attachments, and some papers and documents were seized. On December 28, 1957, the Assistant Collector of Customs issued a show cause notice to the firm, giving various particulars on the basis of which the Assistant Collector had formed a tentative opinion that the firm had imported only 200 Express sprayers and not 220 sprayers as shown in the invoice as well as the Bill of Entry. In fact, the additional 20 sprayers mentioned in the Bill of Entry and invoice were for the purposes of covering certain other goods import of which was prohibited, and in the second place, the 200 Express Sprayers imported were not items falling under Item 74(vi) for which the firm had held the import licences, but were, in fact, articles falling under Item 74(x) of Part V of the Schedule I of the Imports (Control) Order, 1955. The firm was, therefore, called upon to show cause why penal action should not be taken against them under Section 167(8) of the Sea Customs Act, as amended. The show cause notice further asked the firm to send its explanation along with original or certified copies of documents on which the firm intended to rely in support of its case. The firm Was also asked to state whether it wished to be heard in person before the case was decided. The firm submitted its explanation in writing on February 13, 1958. It also requested for a personal hearing, and further requested that each of the Appraising Officers who had dealt with the goods and the Bill of Entry be summoned and their evidence recorded at the personal hearing during which the firm would interrogate in order to elucidate the necessary factual details. A personal hearing was given to the firm by Mr. Lal, who was then the Assistant Collector of Customs, on July 21, 1958, at which Mr. Iyer, the appellant before us, appeared. Mr. Lal, however, refused to call or summon the four Appraising Officers who had dealt with the goods. The firm, it appears, also asked that they be given an opportunity to demonstrate the working of the Express sprayers. The request was allowed, and the demonstration of Express Sprayers was arranged and seen in the godown of the firm at Chinchpokali at about 3 p.m. on September 24, 1958. At the demonstration, Mr. Iyer was present on behalf of the firm, and on behalf of the Customs Department were present - Mr. Lal, Assistant Collector, Shri Rangachari and Shri Patil of the Special Investigation Branch, and Shri Rekhi, the Appraiser, who was then said to be dealing with Bills of Entry for Agricultural machines, implements and parts thereof. What happened at the demonstration has been placed on record of the case by the firm in its letter of September 25, 1958, addressed to the Assistant Collector, and it is exh. 'K' (colly) to the petition. It appears that further Mr. Pillai, the then Acting Collector also wanted to see the demonstration himself and that was arranged on July 1, 1959, and at which were present Mr. Iyer who had, it appears from the correspondence, by that time become the sole proprietor of the partnership business, and on behalf of the Customs Department were present Mr. Pillai, Acting Collector, Shri M. Ramachandran, Deputy Collector of Customs, Shri Palekar, Asstt. Collector, Special Investigation Branch, Shri Patil and Shri Rekhi. What happened at the demonstration has also been placed on record of the case in a letter written by Mr. Iyer of date July 2, 1959, which is exh. 'M' to the petition.
6. On May 25, 1960, Mr. Jasjit Singh, Collector of Customs, made an order. The order discloses that the Collector held that the firm had deliberately cleared unauthorisedly Express sprayers valued at Rs. 31,207 against a licence under Serial No. 74 (vi) part V of the Import Trade Control Schedule instead of against a licence under Section No. 74 (x), part V. The Collector further held that the firm had also taken out surreptitiously goods valued at Rs. 8,163 without proper declaration on a Bill of Entry and without production of a valid licence. On these findings, the Collector held that the goods in question were imported and cleared in contravention of the Imports Control Order, 1955, and the firm thereby committed offence under Section 167(8) of the Sea Customs Act, 1878. As the imported goods were not available for confiscation, the Collector imposed a personal penalty of Rs. 80,000 under Section 167(8) of the Sea Customs Act, and directed that the penalty should be paid forthwith. As regards the seized goods, the Collector held that as there was no conclusive evidence that the goods seized were part of the goods imported under the cover of the Bill of Entry in question, he gave benefit of doubt and ordered that they be returned to the firm. The copy of the order was despatched to the firm on November 1, 1960, and it appears Was received by the firm sometime on November 8, 1960. On the next day i.e. November 9, 1960, the firm by its advocate's letter, addressed to Mr. Jasjit Singh, demanded that a fresh personal hearing in the matter should be given by him to the firm. It was stated therein, that according to the firm, it was against all principles of natural justice in administrative jurisdiction that one person should adjudicate matter and hear the party, and another person altogether should decide the case a long time thereafter. No personal hearing was given by Jasjit Singh. Now, though the firm had an opportunity of going in appeal against the order of the Collector to the Central Board of Revenue, the firm did not do so. The firm, however, moved this Court by a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, challenging the validity of the said order.
7. In the petition, the validity of the order was challenged on three grounds. In the first instance, it was contended that the Collector was in error in holding that the Express Sprayers fell within Item No. 74 (x) and not under Item No. 74 (vi). Secondly, it was contended that the order was in violation of the principles of natural justice inasmuch as (1) the firm Was not given personal hearing in the sense of being given an opportunity to argue its case before Mr. Jasjit Singh, (2) opportunity was denied to the firm to examine the four appraising officers who had dealt with the goods; and lastly (3) the photo-stat copy of the letter of November 30, 1956 had been erroneously admitted in evidence without its original having been produced and the signature duly proved. Thirdly, it was contended that once the goods have been passed by the Appraiser and allowed to be taken away by an Importer, it was not open to any officer to review and re-open the order of the Appraiser in respect of the quality, value and the description of the goods. It may be stated, however, that though these contentions have been raised in the petition, during the course of the argument before the learned Judge, no point was made that the denial of an opportunity to cross-examine the four Appraising Officers amounted to violation of the principles of natural justice. The learned Judge did not accept any of the contentions raised on behalf of the petitioner and dismissed the petition. It is against this order of dismissal of the petition that this appeal has been filed. All the three contentions to a certain extent in a modified form have again been reiterated before us. We would now proceed to deal with these three contentions.
8. His Lordship after dealing with the first contention raised by the petitioner, proceeded
9. Turning to the second contention, the only aspect which was argued by Mr. Advani before us was that the order made by the Collector of Customs was in violation of the principles of natural justice inasmuch as Mr. Jasjit Singh who made the order had not given a personal hearing to the appellant. According to Mr. Advani, had the Collector of Customs given the appellant hearing and heard his arguments, the appellant could have been able to put forward his views as to the construction of item No. 74 (vi) and persuade the Collector to agree with the construction which the appellant was seeking to put on the said item. That opportunity was not given to him and that constituted violation of principles of natural justice. He referred to cases reported in Amir Singh v. Govt. of India and D.C. Customs v. Ramchand J. Chand (1963) 68 C.W.N. 974. Facts on the basis of which this contention has been raised may be recapitulated. In reply to the show cause notice issued to him, the appellant had stated that he would like to be heard. A hearing was given to him by Mr. Lal, Asst. Collector. The appellant also expressed a desire to give a demonstration of how the Express Sprayers (containers) were operated. The demonstration was first seen by Mr. Lal and some other officers of Customs. Later on, again the demonstration was witnessed by Mr. Pillai, Acting Collector of Customs and some other officers. It is thereafter that the order was made by Mr. Jasjit Singh. Mr. Jasjit Singh had neither personally heard the appellant, nor had seen the demonstration. The question to be considered is whether the order is in any manner vitiated by reason of the violation of the principles of natural justice. It is the argument of Mr. Rangnekar that the principles of natural justice have not been violated. Neither the Act nor any rules framed thereunder prescribe any procedure for disposing of matters under Section 167 of the Sea Customs Act. There has been no obligation cast by any of the provisions of the Act or Rules framed thereunder on the Collector to personally hear the arguments of the appellant. He had the record before him. It is not that the appellant-petitioner was not heard at all. The appellant was heard by Mr. Lal. He was also given an opportunity to demonstrate the working of sprayers. The notes made by Mr. Lal and other Customs Officers were on the record. That record has been perused. Whatever the petitioner-appellant had to say was stated by him in his reply to the show cause notice. Details of demonstration have also been put on record by the appellant. They were also before the Collector. Considering all this material the Collector has made his order, and that is not in any manner vitiated. He has placed reliance on two unreported decisions of this Court in Section Venkatesan, Dy. Collector of Customs, Bombay v. Shah Trikamdas Damji (1956) O.C.J. Appeal No. 75 of 1956, Messrs, Kishanchand & Co. v. M.R. Ramchandran (1960) O.C.J. Appeal No. 57 of 1960, and the reported decision of Madras High Court in 1965 Madras 360. The two decisions on which reliance has been placed by Mr. Advani fully support the contention raised by him. Equally, the decisions on which Mr. Rangnekar has placed reliance support his contention.
10. Facts in Amir Singh's case were that the Collector of Customs, who had given personal hearing to the person said to have smuggled gold, was transferred and thereafter his successor had made the order of confiscating the gold bars recovered from the alleged smuggler of gold without giving him any hearing, and the question was whether the order was vitiated by reason of the violation of principles of natural justice. Placing reliance on certain observations of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in G. Nageswara Rao v. A.P.S.R.T. Corporation : AIR1959SC308 , it was held:
It is a cardinal principle of judicial system that a case should be decided by the authority hearing the arguments and that a successor cannot decide a case without hearing the arguments afresh on the ground that arguments have already been advanced before his predecessor who left the case without deciding it himself. The object of hearing arguments is to give an opportunity to a party to satisfy the Tribunal about the case set up by that party and to explain any adverse facts which may emerge on the record. Therefore it is essential that the successor must hear the arguments afresh. If one person hears and another decides, then personal hearing becomes an empty formality and a mere farce.
Facts in Ramchand Jagadishchand's case were: The Assistant Collector of Customs had given personal hearing to the alleged smuggler. But it was the deputy Collector of Customs who had passed the order of confiscation of goods and imposition of penalty without giving any further hearing to the respondent. It was held that the decision given by the Deputy Collector without hearing the alleged smuggler was violative of the principles of natural justice. The observations on which Mr. Advani has placed reliance are in the following terms (p. 986):
The next question which is to be considered is whether, principles of natural justice have been violated in this case inasmuch as it was the Assistant Collector of Customs who gave a personal hearing to the respondent, but it was the Deputy Collector of Customs who passed the order of confiscation and imposition of penalty without giving any further hearing to the respondent. On this point the position in law appears to be fairly well settled. The Supreme Court in the case of Nagesaxtr Rao v. A.P.S.R.T. Corporation in construing certain rules and statues has pointed out that if one person hears evidence and arguments and another person decides, then such a procedure is destructive of the concept of a judicial hearing and defeats the object of a personal hearing. Personal hearing enables the authority concerned to watch the demeanour of the witnesses and clear up his doubts during the course of the arguments and the party appearing to persuade the authority by reasoned argument to accept his point of view. But if one person hears and another decides then personal hearing becomes an empty formality and such a procedure offends the basic principles of judicial procedure.
As we have already stated, these observations undoubtedly support the contention raised by Mr. Advani. It would be noticed that in holding that it was essential for the authority ultimately making the order to personally hear the arguments, the learned Judges deciding both the cases have followed certain observations of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Nageswara Rao's case. It has to be considered whether the said observations of their Lordships in Nageswara Rao's case have a general application governing cases arising under different Acts or were made in the context of the facts in that case and the provisions of the Act governing that case.
11. Facts in Nageswara Rao's case in brief were: The petitioners before their Lordships were various persons carrying on motor transport business by obtaining permits under the Motor Vehicles Act. By an amendment, a new chapter IV-A was inserted in the Act, providing for the State Transport Undertaking running business to the exclusion, complete or partial, of all other persons doing business in the State. Chapter IV-A provided for a machinery called 'State Transport Undertaking' defined as an Undertaking providing road transport service. In exercise of the powers conferred on him by the Act, the Manager of the State Transport Undertaking of Andhra Pradesh published a scheme for the purpose of providing an efficient, adequate and properly co-ordinated service in public interest to operate the transport service mentioned therein. Objections were invited from persons who were already operating these services within a certain time. Objections were heard by the Secretary to the Government in charge of Transport. The scheme was ultimately sanctioned by the State Government. The State Transport Corporation was then entitled to implement the scheme of nationalisation of transport under the scheme. The petitioners, who were apprehending that their business will be taken over by the Corporation, sought the aid of the Court to protect their fundamental rights to carry on their business by writ petitions. The validity of the scheme was challenged on various grounds. Suffice it to say that in them the constitutional validity of the scheme was challenged. The other ground raised was that there was violation of the principles of natural justice in disposing of the objections raised on behalf of the petitioners. We are here concerned only with the objections raised by the petitioners relating to the violation of the principles of natural justice. The contention raised was that the procedure prescribed for hearing objections was violative of the principles of natural justice, firstly because the authority that was empowered to hear objections was an interested person, and secondly on the ground that though the Act and the rules framed thereunder imposed a duty on the State Government to give personal hearing, the procedure prescribed by the rules imposed a duty on the Secretary of the Transport Department to hear objections, and imposed a duty on the Chief Minister to decide. Both these grounds were upheld. We are here only concerned with one aspect, namely, hearing given by one authority and the decision given by another. It is in considering these contentions raised in this behalf, their Lordships after examining the various provisions of the Act and the rules and the procedure prescribed by rules, in para. 31 of the report, observed (p. 327):
The second objection is that while the Act and the Rules framed thereunder impose a duty on the State Government to give a personal hearing, the procedure prescribed by the Rules impose a duty on the Secretary to hear and the Chief Minister to decide. This divided responsibility is destructive of the concept of judicial hearing. Such a procedure defeats the object of personal hearing. Personal hearing enables the authority concerned to watch the demeanour of the witnesses and clear-up his doubts during the course of the arguments, and the party appearing to persuade the authority by reasoned argument to accept his point of view. If one person hears and another decides, then personal hearing becomes an empty formality. We therefore hold that the said procedure followed in this case also offends another basic principle of judicial procedure.
It is only the latter part of the observations which have been referred to in the aforesaid two judgments. It would be seen that the observations of their Lordships 'that if one person hears and another decides, then personal hearing becomes an empty formality' have been made in the context of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules framed thereunder and the procedure prescribed, and the inconsistency between the provisions of the Act and the rules and procedure prescribed by the rules. These observations have no general application, nor has any general principle been laid down that even when there is no provision in the relevant Act or the rules framed thereunder, to give a personal hearing, failure to hear the arguments amounts to violation of the principles of natural justice. The view taken by us finds support in the judgment of their Lordships itself. Before their Lordships proceeded to decide the objections of the petitioners, as to the violation of the principles of natural justice, their Lordships have referred to their previous decisions in New Prakash Transport Co. Ltd v. New Suwarna Transport Co. Ltd. : 1SCR68 , and also in Express Newspaper Ltd. v. Union of India : (1961)ILLJ339SC , wherein the principles laid down in. New Prahash Transport Co. : (1958)IILLJ259SC case were re-affirmed. In New Prakash Transport Co. : (1958)IILLJ259SC case, their Lordships, after examining in detail various English and Indian decisions have observed:
Rules of natural justice vary with the varying constitutions of statutory bodies and the rules prescribed by the legislature under which they have to act, and the question whether in a particular case they have been contravened must be judged not by any preconceived notion of what they may be but in the light of the provisions of the relevant Act.
It would be noticed that in considering the issue as to whether the principles of natural justice have been violated or not by a particular authority must be considered in the light of the provisions made under the Act and the rules which had imposed a duty on that authority to decide a particular matter in a quasi judicial manner. If the authority violates the procedure prescribed by the Act or the rules, that by itself constitutes violation of the principles of natural justice. In the modern days, various administrative bodies have been charged with a duty to decide various disputes and in doing so, act quasi judicially. The circumstances in each case are not similar. Acts provide wherever found necessary procedure, which has to be followed by the authorities concerned in deciding disputes arising under the various Acts, and it is in the light of these provisions that the question has to be considered in each case. Even where there is no procedure prescribed, there are certain fundamental principles of natural justice, which it is the duty of the authority acting quasi judicially to observe, and those principles have also been stated by their Lordships in another decision in Union of India v. T.R. Varma : (1958)IILLJ259SC . Their Lordships, at page 507, after stating that the Evidence Act had no application to the enquiries conducted by the administrative tribunals, on whom a duty has been imposed to decide certain matters in a quasi judicial manner, observed:.The law requires that such tribunals should observe rules of natural justice in the conduct of the enquiry, and if they do so, their decision is not liable to be impeached on the ground that the procedure followed was not in accordance with that, which obtains in a Court of Law. Stating it broadly and without intending it to be exhaustive, it may be observed that rules of natural justice require that a party should have the opportunity of adducing all relevant evidence on which he relies, that the evidence of the opponent should be taken in his presence, and that he should be given the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses examined by that party, and that no materials should be relied on against him without his being given an opportunity of explaining them. If these rules are satisfied, the enquiry is not open to attack on the ground that the procedure laid down in the Evidence Act for taking evidence was not strictly followed.
It is true that their Lordships were not exhaustively stating the principles of natural justice but their Lordhsips have stated fundamental principles in a broad general way. It would be noticed that hearing the arguments of a party as contra-distinguished from hearing the evidence which he wishes to tender and giving an opportunity of cross-examining witnesses examined against him, has not been said to be an essential ingredient of the principles of natural justice. Of course, if the procedure prescribed under the law or the rules framed thereunder requires hearing of the arguments, then certainly failure on the part of the authority deciding to hear the arguments would constitute violation of the said principles. We have, therefore, now to turn to the provisions of the Sea Customs Act. It is not in dispute that the Customs authorities in deciding cases falling under Section 167 of the said Act are in duty bound to act in a quasi judicial manner. It has been held by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Sewpujanrai I. Ltd v. Collector of Customs : 1958CriLJ1355 , that the enquiry under Section 167(8) of the Sea Customs Act is a quasi judicial enquiry, and also by this Court in Pukhraj v. D.R. Kohli : (1959)61BOMLR1230 at p. 1243.
12. Coming now to the provisions of the Sea Customs Act, Chapter XVII prescribes the procedure relating to offences and appeals. We have gone through the entire chapter. There is no provision any where in the procedure prescribed under the Act requiring the authority concerned to give an opportunity to the offender to argue his case personally, either by himself or through his counsel before the authority. Section 182 empowers certain officers to levy penalty under Section 167(8), Those officers are, the Deputy Commissioner or Deputy Collector of Customs or a Customs Collector. Here, the penalty has been imposed by a person duly authorised under the Act to impose the penalty. The appellant had raised a contention in the petition that he was not given an opportunity to cross-examine certain witnesses he wanted to cross-examine, and the order made, therefore, was vitiated by reason of the violation of the principles of natural justice. That contention, however, was not pressed at the trial before the trial Court. The contention, therefore, does not survive in this appeal, and we therefore did not allow Mr. Advani to argue on the point. There was another contention raised that the photo-stat copies were admitted without the originals having been produced and proved. That contention has been over-ruled by the learned Judge deciding the matter, and that contention has not been pressed before us. In our opinion, in deciding the matter, the Collector has not violated any principles of natural justice. The show cause notice was served on the appellant. That notice gave various particulars on the basis of which the charges had been founded. The appellant had submitted a written explanation in detail relating to all matters. He sought personal hearing, and it was given to him by Mr. Lal. He also sought an opportunity to give a demonstration of the actual working of the Express Sprayers. That was also given to him, and the demonstration was seen by Mr. Lal and some others. The second demonstration was also seen by the Acting Collector, Mr. Pillai. The appellant had placed on record full details of all that took place at both the demonstrations. All this material was before the Collector, and the Collector has taken this material into consideration. At the commencement of the order, the Collector has stated that he had read the show cause notice, the written explanation of the appellant, and also all the subsequent correspondence. He had also the records of personal hearing and had read the records of the case. Then at para. 12, before reaching his conclusion, he observed:
I have carefully considered the facts of the case and all the points raised by the party in their written explanations and also put forth at the time of the personal hearing. I have also gone through the records of the case carefully.
The affidavit in reply has been sworn in by Mr. Jasjit Singh himself, who made the order. In para. 40, he has stated: 'I say that the result of the demonstration has been recorded in the Customs file by the officer before whom the demonstration was given'. It is further stated in para. 41 that the records of the personal hearing as well as the records of the demonstration recorded in the customs file were before him. The appellant had also represented his case by several letters written by him, which also contain records of demonstration, and they were before him. It was in these circumstances that he did not think it necessary to personally hear the appellant any further. That being the position, in our opinion, there had been no violation of the principles of natural justice. Neither the Act nor the rules require that Mr. Jasjit Singh should have heard the arguments of the appellant. In our opinion, therefore, this contention also should fail. The view taken by us finds support in the two decisions of this Court in Section Venkatesan, Dy. Collector of Customs, Bombay v. Shah Trikamdas Damji, and Messrs. Kishanchand & Co. v. M.R. Ramchandran. The former appeal, i.e. Venkatesan's case arose out of a case where it was held that the rock-salt imported by the petitioner before this Court was not covered by the licence he held, and one of the contentions raised by the petitioner in the Writ Petition was that he not having been heard personally, the order made was vitiated. His contention was upheld by the learned trial Judge. The appeal which was heard by Chagla C.J. and Tendolkar J., however, took a different view. The learned Chief Justice held that the rules of natural justice confer upon a party the right to be heard, but does not confer upon him the wider right of being heard orally. No duty was cast on the Deputy Collector by reason of any law or rule or procedure, by which he was under an obligation to hear the petitioner orally. That being the position, it was held that in not hearing the petitioner personally, there was no violation of the principles of natural justice. The other appeal arose out of a case under the Sea Customs Act. There the hearing was given by the Assistant Collector and the decision was given by the Deputy Collector. The validity of the order was challenged on the ground that the person deciding the matter did not give a personal hearing. The contention was not accepted and it was held that there was no violation of the principles of natural justice. The facts of this case are very similar to the case before us.
13. The rest of the judgment is not material to this report.