1. The appellant was the owner of certain silk goods seized by the Customs authorities at a place near Madura on 16th October, 1935. These goods were suspected by the Customs authorities to be smuggled and an inquiry was held by the Inspector of Customs, Negapatam, at which it is conceded that the appellant was heard and was represented by the advocates of the Tanjore Bar and that no facility was refused him to put forward whatever evidence he had to adduce or arguments he wished to present to the Court in support of his case. The records of the case were sent to the Collector of Customs and Salt Reveune who passed an order in January, 1936, confiscating the goods which had been seized, holding that they had been smuggled. This order was passed without any further hearing being afforded to the appellant. The appellant thereupon applied under Section 188 of the Sea Customs Act to the Central Board of Reveune which on the 5th May, 1936, held on revision that the order of the Collector of Customs was right and could not be interfered with. This second appeal arises out of a suit by the plaintiff for a declaration that the order of the Central Board of Revenue is not valid and binding on him. Both the learned Subordinate Judge of Madura and the learned District Judge of Madura have held that there was no right of suit and this is the subject-matter of the second appeal.
2. Section 188 of the Sea Customs Act provides that every order passed under that section shall, subject to the power of revision conferred by Section 191, be final. It is argued for the appellant that the use of the word 'final' does not necessarily mean that in all circumstances the jurisdiction of Civil Courts is barred, and I have been referred to a recent decision of the Privy Council reported in Secretary of State for India v. Mask & Co. (1940) 2 M.L.J. 140 : L.R. 67 IndAp 222 : I.L.R. (1940) Mad. 599 (P.C.), in which the following words occur:
It is also well settled that even if jurisdiction is so excluded, the Civil Courts have jurisdiction to examine into cases where the provisions of the Act have not been complied with, or the statutory tribunal has not acted in conformity with the fundamental principles of judicial procedure.
The argument is that in the present case the provisions of the Act have not been complied with and also that the fundamental principles of judicial procedure have been violated. A very interesting argument has been developed on this question, but it seems to me that it is unnecessary for me to consider it. The argument is based upon the fact that the word 'adjudged' in Section 182 requires that the official who is adjudging confiscation must do so by a judicial order and cannot pass a final order without personally hearing the person against whom it is to be passed. Therefore in refusing to give a personal hearing to the appellant the Collector of Customs was infringing the provisions of the section. The fundamental principles of judicial procedure also include the right of the appellant to be heard and to be heard not only by a subordinate official but by the official who is to pass the order against him. In the present case there is no doubt at all that the appellant was heard, but he was heard not by the Collector of Customs but by the Inspector of Customs; nor can there be any suggestion that he was prevented in any way from adducing all the evidence which he wished to adduce and proving any fact which he wished to prove. As the learned District Judge has held, all the records of the case must be assumed to have been before the Collector of Customs when he passed his order and it cannot be said that the order was passed without the appellant having had an opportunity of putting forward his case, even though he was not present in person or by advocate before the Collector of Customs. It has been found that the written arguments that were submitted to the Inspector of Customs must have been before the Collector of Customs also. I have been referred to certain Calcutta cases dealing with Section 36 of the Legal Practitioners' Act, which I think are distinguishable from the facts of the present case, because there is a specific subsection of that Act which requires that before any person's name is included in the list of touts, he must be given an opportunity to show cause why his name should not be included. The existence of that sub-section is a clear justification for the finding of the Calcutta High Court that before any Court can include the name of any person as a tout, that Court and not a Court subordinate to it must hear his objection to that course. There is no such provision in Section 182.
3. As I say, however, I do not think it necessary for me to give any finding whether the use of the word 'adjudged' in Section 182 requires that the actual official who passed the order of confiscation must hear the person whose goods are being confiscated. There is another remedy provided by the Act and that is an application to the Central Board of Revenue under Section 191. In the present case such an application was made and failed, and although all the arguments before me have been concentrated upon the failure of the Collector of Customs to observe the procedure laid down by the Act, the suit is not to set aside his order but to set aside the order of the Central Board of Revenue. Against that order no criticism at all has been put forward. The order shows that it was passed after the appellant's counsel had been duly heard and no attempt whatever has been made to suggest that in passing that order the Central Board of Revenue has in anyway infringed the principles of justice or the provisions of the Act. As has been laid down in a recent Full Bench decision of this Court in Secretary of State for India v. Jagannadham : AIR1940Mad850 , where by an act of Legislature powers are given to a person for a public purpose from which an individual may receive an injury, if the method of redressing the injury is indicated by the statute the ordinary jurisdiction of Civil Courts is ousted and a suit does not lie. It seems to me clear on the principles there enunciated that even if it be true that the procedure of the Collector of Customs was not in accordance with the Act or with the principles of justice, there is a definite remedy provided by the Act and because that is so the appellant had no right of suit.
4. In the result, this appeal must fail and is dismissed with costs.
5. Leave to appeal is refused.