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Navrang Dyeing Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Collector of Customs - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtCustoms Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal CESTAT Mumbai
Decided On
Reported in(1984)(17)ELT357Tri(Mum.)bai
AppellantNavrang Dyeing Pvt. Ltd.
RespondentCollector of Customs
Excerpt:
2. the applicants, m/s. navrang dyeing pvt. ltd. imported a consignment of oxytetracycline hcl bp 73. the additional collector of customs, bombay, under his order no. s/10-82/83b, dated 4-8-83 directed confiscation of the said consignment, but however gave an option to the applicants herein to pay fine of rs. 13 lakhs in lieu of confiscation.3. feeling aggrieved by the order of the learned additional collector, the applicants preferred an appeal no. 1205 of 1983 before this bench.during the pendency of the appeal the applicants also made an application no. 230 of 1983 for stay. in the application for stay the applicants prayed that they may be permitted to clear the goods viz.oxytetracycline hcl without payment of fine of rs. 13 lakhs or any other amount. this application came up for.....
Judgment:
2. The applicants, M/s. Navrang Dyeing Pvt. Ltd. imported a consignment of Oxytetracycline HCL BP 73. The Additional Collector of Customs, Bombay, under his Order No. S/10-82/83B, dated 4-8-83 directed confiscation of the said consignment, but however gave an option to the applicants herein to pay fine of Rs. 13 lakhs in lieu of confiscation.

3. Feeling aggrieved by the order of the learned Additional Collector, the applicants preferred an appeal No. 1205 of 1983 before this Bench.

During the pendency of the appeal the applicants also made an application No. 230 of 1983 for stay. In the application for stay the applicants prayed that they may be permitted to clear the goods viz.

Oxytetracycline HCL without payment of fine of Rs. 13 lakhs or any other amount. This application came up for consideration before this Bench to which one of us [Hegde, Member (J)] was a party. The Respondent Collector of Customs, Bombay, was represented by Shri Krishan Kumar, the Junior Departmental Representative. In the stay application, Shri V.D. Govilkar, the learned Advocate for the applicants submitted that prima facie the order passed by the Additional Collector was illegal and opposed to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in a case reported in AIR 1971 Supreme Court 705, and as such he contended that the direction in the order of the learned Additional Collector requiring the applicants herein to pay fine of Rs. 13 lakhs for the release of the goods would certainly cause great hardship, and that the applicants are prepared to offer a bank guarantee for the entire sum.

4. Shri Krishan Kumar, JDR, however, contended that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to stay the redemption fine. In support of this contention Shri Krishan Kumar relied upon the provisions of Section 129-E of the Customs Act. Shri Krishan Kumar further contended that immediately after the order passed by the learned Additional Collector, the goods vested with the Government of India, and as such the Tribunal cannot grant any stay. The Bench, however, did not accept this contention of Shri Krishan Kumar. It held that even though the Act does not confer power to grant stay of redemption fine, the grant of stay is incidental and ancillary to the appellate power. The Bench after considering all aspects of the case in exercise of its inherent powers allowed the stay application as prayed for on the applicants furnishing a bank guarantee for the sum of Rs. 13 lakhs to the satisfaction of the Collector of Customs, Bombay, within a period of 4 weeks from the date of the order (30-9-83).

5. The applicants appear to have received the copy of the order on 4-10-82 and on 31-10-83 they furnished a bank guarantee which the respondents declined to accept on the ground that the same has been furnished after the expiry of 4 weeks. Subsequently, the applicants herein furnished the Misc. Application No. 53/83 and sought extension of time for famishing the bank guarantee. In this application they stated that they reckoned the period of 4 weeks commencing from 4-10-83, the date on which they received the copy of the stay order and because of the bona fide mistake they requested for extension of time to furnish the bank guarantee. This application came up for consideration before this Bench to which again one of us was a party [Hegde, Member (J)]. The Respondent Collector was represented by Shri C.M. Gidwani, S.D.R. After considering the application, the Bench extended time till 14-11-83 to furnish the bank guarantee.

6. In the application under consideration, the applicants averred that immediately after obtaining the order dated 7-11-83 they approached the Assistant Collector of Customs, B Group, with a zerox copy of the order dated 7-11-83 and requested the acceptance of guarantee and release of the goods. It appears the said Assistant Collector of Customs, B Group was of the opinion, that since there was no specific direction in the original order dated 30-9-83 directing the Customs Authorities to release the consignment to the applicants, the consignment should not be permitted to be cleared. It was further averred in the application that the said Assistant Collector of Customs declined from passing any orders in writing recording the Department's refusal to accept the bank guarantee and release goods. It is then stated in the application that in order to clarify the position the applicants through their Advocate Mr. H.R. Gill addressed the said Assistant Collector of Customs a letter bearing No. ND/83-84/CEGAT/AC/B, dated 9-11-83 clarifying the scope and import of the stay order. Along with the letter a copy of the stay application was also sent. It is further stated that the letter above referred to was sent through their representative Mr. Ashok Kumar Gupta who personally met the Assistant Collector of Customs, Miss M.Michael around 3 p.m. on 9-11-83. What transpired during the meeting was referred to by Shri Ashok Kumar Gupta in the affidavit which is annexed to the application and marked Exh. 'A'. Shri Gupta had stated in his affidavit that the Assistant Collector of Customs directed him to hand over the letter to her clerk which he accordingly did under proper acknowledgement. Thereafter, he requested the Assistant Collector of Customs to kindly order release of the consignment in accordance with the Tribunal's order dated 30-9-83 and 7-11-83. Shri Gupta has further stated in his affidavit that he also explained to the Assistant Collector as to the contents of the order of the Tribunal and that the Assistant Collector was satisfied that the Customs Authorities were required to release the consignment by accepting the bank guarantee of Rs. 13 lakhs. The Assistant Collector told him that she would look into the matter and decide the issue accordingly. On requesting her to let him know the approximate time within which he could expect the release of consignment, the Assistant Collector was non-committal, but after considerable persuasion she condescended to dispose of the case within 8 to 10 days. She however refused to pass any order in writing stating that she was unable to do so. Shri Gupta further stated that the Assistant Collector remarked that the importation of the goods in question itself was unlawful and the idea of the same being released against the bank guarantee in lieu of confiscation did not appeal to her. (emphasis by us). The Assistant Collector stated that in any event, the appeal itself was due for hearing on 25-11-83 whence and thereafter, the matter would be finally decided. Finally, Shri Gupta stated that he gathered the impression that the said Assistant Collector, Miss M. Michael would avoid releasing the goods and he even pointed out to her that the Hon.

Tribunal would take a serious view of the disobedience of the order.

She, however, according to Shri Gupta treated this suggestion with disdain and scorn.

It is further stated in the application that the applicants with all their efforts have been unable to get the consignment released from the Customs Authorities, who have for reasons best known to them failed and/or avoided to comply with the orders of the Tribunal. The Assistant Collector of Customs, 'B' Group has firmly declined to pass any written orders and has failed and avoided even to record the receipt of the bank guarantee submitted by the applicants on 31-10-83. The applicants apprehend that the said Customs Authorities are not in a mood to release the consignment and will detain the same pending final decision in the appeal and thereby defeat the purpose for which the stay was granted by this Tribunal, in deliberate and systematic defiance of the order of the Tribunal. The applicants stated that by resorting to this dilatory and evasive tactics the Respondents have in fact acted in positive contempt showing scant regard for the sanctity and authority of the Tribunal. The applicants prayed for an order directing the Assistant Collector of Customs, 'B' Group to deliver the consignment within 24 hours and to grant such reliefs as the Tribunal may deem fit.

7. The above application was presented on 24-11-83 and on that day the Bench directed the Respondent Collector to file objections, if any, and grant time till 25-11-83 to hear the application. On that day Shri Jain for the Respondent Collector represented that the allegations contained in the affidavit of Shri Gupta are not true and he would file a counter affidavit. We, therefore, granted two days time to file a counter affidavit and listed the application for hearing on 28-11-83. On that day the affidavit of the Assistant Collector of Customs, Miss Michael, was filed. She has stated on oath that the averment contained in the application about deliberate contempt committed by her is totally false and misconceived and as an officer of the Respondent she is always bound to carry out the orders of the Hon. Tribunal. But it is her duty to point out to the Hon. Tribunal that the appellants have deliberately concealed relevant facts of which they were fully aware-not only at the time of making the application for stay and/or subsequent applications in respect thereof-but have suppressed relevant facts from the Hon'ble Tribunal even filing the present application. She then stated in her affidavit: "I say that the appellants have filed an appeal against the order of the Additional Collector dated 25-8-83. The said order, inter alia, permitted the release of the consignments in question on the appellants paying the redemption fine of Rs. 13 lakhs. The Appellate Collector had then come to a finding that the appellants had contravened provisions of the import trade control orders, for the reasons mentioned in the said order. It is significant at this stage to mention that the present appeal filed by the appellants was in respect of findings arrived at by the said Additional Collector. The Hon'ble Tribunal thereafter vide order dated 30-9 83 permitted the appellants to furnish the bank guarantee instead of paying the fine as and by way of interim relief. I say that while prosecuting their appeals/stay application on 30-9-83 the appellants, apparently, had not informed the Hon'ble Tribunal that by a letter dated 16-9-83 the Assistant Drug Controller had cancelled/withdrawn the permission earlier given by him (for the release of the goods so far as their office was concerned). I say that under the relevant statutory provisions the Customs Authorities are not permitted to release goods falling within the relevant provisions of the Drug and Cosmetics Act unless permission to that effect is produced before the Customs Authorities by the importer, seeking release of such goods. I further say that the Assistant Drug Controller informed the Customs Authorities that the declaration made by the Appellants to the effect that they had already sold the said consignment on the basis of High Seas Sale to Mercury Laboratories (letter dated enclosed along with the B/E) appears to be incorrect declaration. I have annexed here and marked Ex. 1 a copy of a letter written by M/s. Mercury to the office of the Drug Controller which speaks for itself. I therefore say that it was incumbent on the part of the Appellants to have brought this fact to the knowledge of the Hon'ble Tribunal at the time of proceeding with the stay application. I say and submit that the Hon'ble Tribunal granted this stay order in respect of the issues placed before it by the appellants namely the dispute regarding this contravention is concerned the issue is closed for the time being in view of the said order dated 30-9-83.

However, I seek the direction of the Hon'ble Tribunal in view of the fact that while the appellants have approached me for the release of the said goods on the strength of the aforesaid stay order, at the same time I am restrained from permitting such release, in view of the relevant statutory provisions, by virtue of the cancellation/withdrawal by the Assistant Drug Controller, and the reasons for which the said cancellation/withdrawal had been intimated by him appears not to have been brought to the notice of the Hon'ble Tribunal. It is in these circumstances that I refused to release when the appellants approached me with the Bank guarantee on 7-11-83 pursuant to the order dated 30-9-83, I crave leave of the Hon'ble Tribunal to permit me to refer to and rely upon the relevant correspondence/notings exchanged between my department and the Assistant Drug Controller's office in connection with the aforesaid issue.

With regard to the statement made in the affidavit of Shri Gupta, Miss Michael stated in her affidavit: "I further say that so far as the statements in affidavit of the said Shri Gupta are concerned at the best these are half truth. I deny that I was noncommittal as alleged for the reasons alleged or at all so far as the appellant's queries regarding release were concerned. I deny that I refused to pass any order in writing because I was not obliged to do so as alleged by the appellants. In fact I stated to the Appellants that in view of the fact that I was restrained by the cancellation/withdrawal by the ADC- which fact was not within the knowledge of the Hon'ble Tribunal when it passed the order-it would be proper for them to bring this to the notice of the Hon'ble Tribunal and obtain the necessary direction, which I am bound to carry out. Instead of doing that, the appellants have distorted true facts and presented to the Tribunal a picture as if I was deliberately interested in violating orders of the Tribunal. I deny the allegations that it did not appeal to me that the goods could be released on the bank guarantee in view of the fact that the importation was unlawful as alleged by the appellants. It is not for me to decide this issue in so far as the Hon'ble Tribunal had already issued a stay order. On the contrary I stated that whereas I am bound by this stay order I am unable to order the release of the goods. In view of ADC's withdrawal/cancellation of the permission earlier granted by him and advised the party to bring this to the notice of the Tribunal and obtain proper directions." "I say that the correct facts are what I have stated herein above. I therefore say that I have not been able to order the release of the goods because of directions from the Assistant Drug Controller. If the appellants obtain an appropriate order from the said ADC, I have no reason for not releasing the goods. So also if the Honourable Tribunal directs I will do so as per the directions. However, I may reiterate that my action in not releasing the goods was totally due to my bona fide understanding of the correct legal position and I acted bona fide in the discharge of my duty. I may add that I have not deliberately or otherwise or at all disregarded the orders of the Hon'ble Tribunal.

I deny the correctness of all allegations, submissions and contentions stated by the appellants which are contrary to and/or inconsistent with all I have stated herein above as if the same were specifically set out herein traversed." 8. During the hearing of the application, Shri V.D. Govilkar, the learned Advocate for the applicants, brought to our pointed notice that as early as on 4-8-83 the Additional Collector of Customs, Bombay gave an option to the applicants to clear the goods on payment of fine of Rs. 13.00 lakhs. This order remains unaltered excepting to the extent of mode of payment. Instead of cash payment this Bench by its order allowed bank guarantee. The counter affidavit of Miss Michael, Assistant Collector discloses that the respondent Collector had received a letter dated 16-8-83 from the Assistant Drug Controller withdrawing the permission earlier given for the release of the goods.

If that was the ground for not releasing the goods the respondent Collector ought to have urged that ground when the stay application came up for consideration. The very fact, that the respondent Collector did not raise any such contention clearly indicated that letter could not have been the cause for not accepting the bank guarantee, and releasing the goods. Shri Govilkar, further, pointed out that the counter affidavit filed by the Assistant Collector amply reveals that the Assistant Collector had scant regard for the order of the Tribunal and she had decided not to release the goods whatever be the consequences. In support of this contention Shri Govilkar brought to our notice that in paragraph 3 of her affidavit Miss Michael had stated that she had brought to the notice of the applicants herein the reason for her inability to release the goods and that she had even told the applicants that it would be proper for them to bring to the notice of the Hon'ble Tribunal and obtain necessary direction from the Tribunal.

In paragraph 4 of her affidavit Miss Michael had stated that she had not been able to order the release of goods because of the direction from the Assistant Drug Controller and if the appellant obtain an appropriate order from the said Assistant Drug Controller she will have no reason for not releasing the goods. In paragraph 4 of her affidavit the Assistant Collector justified her action by stating 'However I may reiterate that my action is not releasing the goods was totally due to my bona fide understanding of the correct legal position and I acted bona fide in the discharge of my duty'. Shri Govilkar argued that even at the stage of filing the counter affidavit the Assistant Collector considers her action as legal whereas the order passed by the Tribunal was not in accordance with law. Thus it was clear that the Assistant Collector has not only resorted to dilatory and evasive tactics and in fact acted in positive contempt showing scant regard to the sanctity and authority of the Hon'ble Tribunal.

9. Shri J.M. Jain, for the respondent Collector, however, submitted that the Assistant Collector acted bona fide and she has high respect for the orders of the Tribunal. Because of the letter of the Assistant Drug Controller she could not release the goods.

10. We have carefully considered the submissions made on both sides, the averments made in the application as well as the affidavit of Shri Gupta and the counter affidavit of Miss Michael.

(1) Whether the respondent Collector disobeyed the order dated 30-9-83 passed by this Bench.

(2) If so, whether the respondent Collector had justification for disobeying the order.

(3) Whether the justification, if any, could be pleaded as a defence.

Before proceeding to answer the points referred to above it is necessary to set out that it had been made clear to us that according to the distribution of work in the Custom House, the Assistant Collector, 'B' Group has been assigned the duty of disposal of matters of the nature under consideration.

Answer to point No. /.-Detailed discussion is not required to answer this point. With impunity, but eloquently the Assistant Collector, Miss Michael, in her affidavit had furnished the answer. The order for release of the goods was made on 30-9-83. The applicants herein furnished the required bank guarantee on 31-10-83. That was not accepted by the Assistant Collector as it was furnished beyond the stipulated period. The applicants after obtaining the order for extension of time till 7-11-83 approached the Assistant Collector for release of the goods. She neither accepted the bank guarantee, nor released the goods, nor did she pass any orders in writing assigning reasons for not accepting the bank guarantee and releasing the goods.

In her counter affidavit, Miss Michael no doubt stated the reasons as to why she refused to release the goods when the applicants approached with the bank guarantee on 7-11-83. At this stage it is unnecessary to go into the reasons. The fact remains that the Assistant Collector has not obeyed the order of this Bench dated 30-9-83. Disobedience is thus established.

Answer to point Nos. 2 & 3.-These are considered together as they are interlinked. In pages 4 and 5 of this order we have practically copied the counter affidavit filed by Miss Michael. The following reasons were assigned by her for not releasing the goods: (i) During consideration of the stay application the applicants had not informed the Tribunal about the letter dated 16-9-83 of the Assistant Drug Controller cancelling/withdrawing the permission earlier given by him for release of the goods.

(ii) Under the relevant statutory provisions the Custom Authorities are not permitted to release the goods falling within the relevant provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act unless permission to that effect was produced before the Customs Authorities by the importer seeking release of such goods.

(iii) The Assistant Drug Controller had informed the Customs Authorities that the declaration made by the applicants to the effect that they had already sold the said consignment on the basis of high seas sale to Mercury Laboratories appears to be incorrect declaration and that it was incumbent on the part of the applicants herein to have brought that fact to the knowledge of the Hon.

Tribunal at the time of consideration of the stay application, and (iv) That she was restrained from permitting release by the letter of the Assistant Drug Controller and that fact was within the knowledge of this Bench when it passed the order on 30-9-83 and that the applicants herein ought to have brought the said fact to the notice of this Bench and obtained necessary direction, and instead of doing that the applicants have distorted the true facts and presented to the Tribunal a picture as if she was deliberately interested in violating the order of the Tribunal.

Let us proceed to consider the justifications made out in the counter affidavit and whether under law a party to the order can refuse to obey the order even if there had been some justification.

It is a fundamental principle of law that whatever be the merit of the order of the Court or Tribunal the party to the order is bound by the order and is required to obey the order and cannot refuse to obey the same unless the order is either modified or set aside by a superior authority or by the same authority either at the instance of the party against whom the said order operates or at the instance of any other party. It is necessary to point out that our order dated 30-9-83 substituting the bank guarantee for cash payment was passed after giving an opportunity to the respondent Collector. The Respondent Collector did not choose to bring to our notice the letter of the Assistant Drug Controller dated 16-9-83. Even after the order dated 30-9-83 neither the respondent Collector nor the Assistant Collector made any application for modification or annulling the order passed by us. According to the applicants a bank guarantee was furnished on 31-10-83 and they again approached the Assistant Collector on 7-11-83.

Even at this stage the Assistant Collector did not think it fit to bring to the notice of the Bench of the letter she had received from the Assistant Drug Controller. In her counter affidavit she has taken up the stand that it was for the applicants herein to bring to the notice of the Bench as to the letter of the Assistant Drug Controller and obtain a modified order. This stand betrays the elementary knowledge of procedure and law. That there was an order against the respondent Collector. The Assistant Collector who was to carry out the order was duty bound to carry out the said order, and if the order needed any modifications or cancellation by reason of intervening circumstances the respondent Collector or the Assistant Collector should approach the Bench by an appropriate application and cannot be permitted to take shelter on the ground the party in whose favour an order has been passed should have brought the letter of the Assistant Drug Controller to the notice of the Bench and obtained a modified order.

Now in the whole of her counter affidavit, Miss Michael has not spelt out the provisions of the Customs Act or the Drugs and Cosmetics Act which prevented or prohibited her from obeying the order passed by this Bench . During the course of the arguments Shri J.M. Jain, the learned SDR, however, referred to Sec. 10 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, (which will be hereinafter referred to as 'the Drugs Act'). Section 10 of the Drugs Act prohibits import of certain drugs and cosmetics which are not of standard quality, mis-branded, adulterated or for the import of which a licence is prescribed or the import of which is prohibited by rules made under Chapter III. This section can come into play prior to the import and not after the import. In the instant case the import had already taken place and even adjudication was also over. The Additional Collector in his order dated 4-8-83 directed the release of goods on payment of fine of Rs. 13 lakhs. The consultation with the Drug Control Department arises only before the order for release is made, and not subsequently. Therefore, the stand taken by Miss Michael in her counter affidavit that the provisions of the Customs Act, Drugs Control Act did not permit her to release the goods is totally untenable. Besides being untenable there is no bona fide also. If the Assistant Drug Controller's letter required her not to release the goods she should have brought to the notice of the Assistant Drug Controller the binding order passed by the Tribunal and made a request to the Assistant Drug Controller to approach the Tribunal for necessary modifications of the order. She does not do this. She takes law into her own hands and refuses to release the goods. Coming to the power of the Assistant Drug Controller we were not shown any provisions in the Drugs Act or any other law which authorised the Assistant Drug Controller to issue the direction to the Customs Authority to permit or not to permit the release of a consignment of a drug. In her counter affidavit Miss Michael had stated that the applicants herein have made a declaration before the Assistant Drug Controller that they had already sold the consignment on the basis of high seas sale to Mercury Laboratories which declaration was subsequently found to be false. Here again it is not clear how the Assistant Drug Controller could order the release if high seas sales have taken place even though the importers have not complied with the requirements of law. We were not shown any provisions empowering the Assistant Drug Controller to direct release of a drug consignment on the basis of high seas sales. The only power conferred on the Assistant Controller (if he was authorised by the Central Government) to request the Customs Collector to take samples of any drugs in the consignment and forward them to the Director of the Laboratory appointed for this purpose by the Central Government. Rule 40 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules reads : "40. Procedure for the import of drugs.-(1) If the Customs Collector has reason to doubt whether any drugs comply with the provisions of Chapter 111 of the Act and Rules thereunder he may, and if requested by an officer appointed for this purpose by the Central Government shall, take samples of any drugs in the consignment and forward them to the Director of the Laboratory appointed for this purpose by the Central Government and may detain the drugs in the consignment of which samples have been taken until the report of the Director of the said Laboratory or any other officer empowered by him on this behalf subject to the approval of the Central Government, on such samples is received : Provided that if the importer gives an undertaking in writing not to dispose of the drugs without the consent of the Customs Collector and to return the consignment or such portion thereof as may be required, the Customs Collector shall make over the consignment to the importer.

(2) If an importer who has given an undertaking under the proviso to Sub-rule (1) is required by the Customs Collector to return the consignment or any portion thereof he shall return the consignment or portion thereof within ten days of receipt of the notice." The above rule makes it clear that the Customs Collector can make over the consignment to the importer if the importer gives an undertaking in writing not to dispose of the drugs without his consent and to return the consignment or such portion thereof as may be required by him. When that was the position in law it is rather strange that the Assistant Collector prefers a letter, not even an order of the Assistant Drug Controller to disobey the binding order of the Tribunal.

Even assuming that the Assistant Collector honestly believed that the letter addressed by the Assistant Drug Controller required her not to release the goods, in law she cannot put forward such a plea as a defence for disobeying the order. The respondent was a party to the proceedings and the order passed by the Bench is binding on the respondent. The order being absolute in its term it was the duty of the respondent to have brought any fresh facts to the knowledge of the Bench and to have prayed for a modification or cancellation of the order. The Assistant Collector, Miss Michael in this case ought not to have taken upon herself the grave responsibility of flouting the order on a mere letter of the Assistant Drug Controller. As a person of ordinary prudence she should have exercised greater care and circumspection in dealing with the matter like this. The Assistant Collector occupies a pivotal position in the customs set up. The Acts and the rules confer vast powers on the Assistant Collector. More power means more responsibility. Unfortunately Miss Michael acted in an irresponsible manner and abused her power. This is a very disturbing trend and the same is required to be curbed in the interest of public.

Answer to point No. 4.-Now this question shall have to be considered from the facts and circumstances established in this case. The Additional Collector in his order dated 4-8-83 directed release of the goods on payment of fine. Neither the respondent Collector nor the Assistant Collector who was to carry out that order took any exception to the release of the goods on payment of fine on the ground of it being violative of any of the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. That order of the Additional Collector unaltered in so far as release of the goods is concerned though of course instead of cash payment the Tribunal directed the party to furnish a bank guarantee.

According to the affidavit of Miss Michael, the Assistant Drugs Controller wrote on 16-9-83 not to release the consignment, but then neither the Collector nor the Assistant Collector have moved their little finger to get the Additional Collector's order modified. This implies that the Assistant Controller would have no objection to release the goods if the applicants herein have made cash payment. As has been stated by Shri Gupta she did not like the idea of releasing the goods on bank guarantee. Further, on 31-10-83 the applicants herein furnished a bank guarantee. The objection taken by the Assistant Collector was that was belated and not that goods cannot be released by reason of the letter of the Assistant Drug Controller. On 7-11-83 when the applicants approached the Assistant Collector for accepting the bank guarantee and release of the goods the Assistant Collector raised yet another objection, namely, the order of the Bench did not direct release of the goods. In her affidavit, Miss Michael no doubt stated that on 7-11-83 she did inform the applicants why she was not releasing the goods. This was denied by the applicants. When a party armed with the order of the Tribunal approached -the Assistant Collector for release of the goods, the proper course for the Assistant Collector was to pass an order in writing if she has any good reason not to comply with the order so that the party in whose favour the order stands could pursue the remedy. Strangely the Assistant Collector adopted evasive tactics. She passed no order either agreeing or refusing to release the goods.

From the facts and circumstances established in this case, we are satisfied that the disobedience on the part of the Assistant Collector is not casual, accidental or unintentional.

Answer to point No. 5.-Having regard to our finding that the disobedience is not casual, accidental or unintentional, the proper course for us is to initiate contempt proceedings. But then we restrain from doing so. We were told that the Assistant Controller has just completed her probation and a recent entrant to the department.

Immaturity, lack of experience and non-realisation of the consequences of disobedience could have been the reason rather than arrogance or power drunkenness.

Taking all aspects into consideration, instead of initiating contempt proceedings we direct her to comply with our order within 2 days from the communication of this order and report compliance immediately thereafter.

11. Before parting with this case we would like to observe that India is a Sovereign Democratic Republic. In our Constitution the rule of law is supreme. The rule of law only means that all are equal before the law, and all are required to obey the law. No person or an authority howsoever high can refuse to obey the law. "Be you ever so high the law is above you".

"When sanctity is attached to established Courts and Tribunals it follows as a corollary that all orders emanating from these Public Institutions should be respected and strictly complied with. The order must be implicitly observed, every diligence must be exercised to obey. The welfare of the people is the supreme law. The welfare of the people can be attained only when there is justice administered lawfully, judicially without fear or favour and those that are responsible for the administration of such justice, and those seek justice as parties and those who help in the administration of justice have to be protected from insults, annoyance or even obstructions. Administration of justice cannot be effective unless respect for it is fostered and maintained.

Interference with it shakes the very pillar of the administration of justice and the confidence of the people in courts, which is of a prime importance to the litigants in their struggle for the protection of their rights and liberties. No Tribunal can function properly unless it is allowed to keep up its dignity, and unless it has power to enforce discipline and respect in its administration of justice. The object .of discipline enforced by Tribunals is not to vindicate the dignity of the Tribunals but to prevent undue interference with the administration of justice." The Assistant Collector would do well to remember that in disobeying the order of the Tribunal she has not only attempted to undermine the authority of the institution established by the law but has brought disrepute to the department.


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