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Land Customs Inspector, Central Preventive Circle and ors. Vs. Jagannath Bhandar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCustoms
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.F.O.O. No. 156 of 1952
Judge
Reported inAIR1953Cal663,57CWN686
ActsLand Customs Act, 1924 - Sections 2, 3, 3(1) and 4; ;Central Excise Act, 1944 - Section 37
AppellantLand Customs Inspector, Central Preventive Circle and ors.
RespondentJagannath Bhandar
Appellant AdvocateG.P. Kar, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateBurman, Adv.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Excerpt:
- .....same. on 27-3-1951, a notice was served upon the respondent by the appellant 2, superintendent of land customs calling upon the respondent to show cause why action should not be taken in terms of section 7 of the land customs act read with section 167 (8) of the sea customs act. on 15-6-1951, the respondent through his agent showed cause before the land customs collector, calcutta. on 21-6-1951, the collector of land customs, calcutta, directed release of 59 bags of betelnuts which had been confiscated and fixed redemption fee of rs. 5000 /-.on 30-9-1951, the respondent filed an application for review of the order of the land customs collector dated 21-6-1951. this matter was heard on 18-10-1951, when the land customs collector made an order for further release of 61 bags and.....
Judgment:

G.N. Das, J.

1. This is an appeal against the judgment of Bose, J. dated 16-5-1952. The facts as found by the learned Judge may be stated as follows:

2. The respondent Jagannath Bhandar carried on business as Commission Agents at Bhagalpur. They dealt with various articles including betel-nuts which were imported by merchants in East Pakistan into India. The respondent employed their agents for release of the goods at Katihar and retained these goods under their custody as commission agents. On 19-3-1951, appellant 1 who is the Inspector of Land Customs, Central Preventive Circle, seized 138 bags of betelnuts and detained the same and made a preliminary order restraining the respondent from disposing of the same. On 27-3-1951, a notice was served upon the respondent by the appellant 2, Superintendent of Land Customs calling upon the respondent to show cause why action should not be taken in terms of Section 7 of the Land Customs Act read with Section 167 (8) of the Sea Customs Act. On 15-6-1951, the respondent through his agent showed cause before the Land Customs Collector, Calcutta. On 21-6-1951, the Collector of Land Customs, Calcutta, directed release of 59 bags of betelnuts which had been confiscated and fixed redemption fee of Rs. 5000 /-.

On 30-9-1951, the respondent filed an application for review of the order of the Land Customs Collector dated 21-6-1951. This matter was heard on 18-10-1951, when the Land Customs Collector made an order for further release of 61 bags and confiscated only 17 bags of betelnuts, the redemption fee being fixed at Rs. 1100. On 14-12-1951, the respondent moved this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and obtained a Rule directing the appellant to refrain from giving effect to the order made on 18-10-1951 and to release 138 bags of betelnuts. It may be pointed out that the mention of 138 bags of betelnut in the Rule issued by this Court was a mistake and the intention of the order was to release the 17 bags of betelnuts which had been confiscated. This Rule came up for hearing before Bose J. on 16-5-1952, and by his order of that date the Rule was made absolute on the ground that as Bhagalpur was situated far away from the foreign frontier, the Land Customs authorities had no jurisdiction to detain the goods in Bhagalpur and to make an order for confiscation subject to payment of redemption fee.

3. Mr. Kar, learned counsel, who appeared in support of the appeal has contended that the view taken by Bose J. is not correct. The question depends on a construction of certain provisions of the Land Customs Act 1924 (Act 19 of 1924). I shall refer to the Sections of the Act which have a bearing on the question before us. Section 3 (1) of the Land Customs Act -- hereinafter called the Act -- empowers the Central Government by a notification in the Official Gazette to appoint for any area adjoining a foreign frontier and specified in the notification, a person to be the Collector of Land Customs and such other persons as it thinks fit to be Land Customs Officers. Section 2 (e) defines the expression 'foreign frontier' to mean the frontier separating any foreign territory from any part of India. Section 2 (f) defines 'foreign territory' to mean any territory declared under Section 5 of the Tariff Act 1894 (Act 8 of 1894) to be foreign territory for the purposes of this Act. Section 2 (g) of the Act defines 'land customs area' to mean any area adjoining a foreign territory for which a Collector of Land Customs has been appointed under Section 3.

4. The contention of Mr. Burman which found favour with Bose J. was that the jurisdiction of the Land Customs Collector or a Land Customs Officer was limited only to an area adjoining foreign territory. Mr. Burman submitted that an area adjoining foreign territory means an area which is either equivalent to the Land Customs. Stations defined under Section 4 of the Land Customs Act or an area of a reasonable depth adjoining a foreign territory. I have to consider these alternative suggestions.

5. As regards the first suggestion, on a reference to Section 4 it appears that the Chief Customs authority by a notification in the official gazette may establish a land customs station in any land customs area. This shows that land customs stations do not cover any area equivalent to the land customs area, the latter being obviously a wider unit.

6. As regards the second suggestion that the expression 'area adjoining a foreign territory means an area of a reasonable depth which abuts on a foreign frontier, it may be pointed out at the outset that such a view would leave in a somewhat indeterminate state the area which would be regarded as a Land Customs area under the Act. The Land Customs Act contains certain penal provisions and it is reasonable to think that the Legislature intended to fix definitely the Land Customs area. That this is so appears from the definition of the expression 'land customs area' in Section 2(g). The definition of Land Customs area in Section 2(g) refers only to Section 3 viz., the area in respect of which a land customs officer may be appointed. I have already quoted Section 3. That Section clearly says that Land Customs officer may be appointed in regard to an area, adjoining a foreign frontier specified in a notification made in that behalf. The specification of the area had therefore to be made by a notification published in the official Gazette. This specification, in my opinion, determines the exact area which may be called the Land Customs area for the purposes of this Act.

That this is the true view follows from certain other Sections in the Act itself. Section 1 makes the Act applicable to the whole of India. Section 5(3) of the Act empowers any Land Customs Officer, duly empowered by the Chief Customs authority in this behalf, to require any person in charge of any goods which such officer has reason to believe to have been imported, or to be about to be exported, by land from or to any foreign territory, to produce the permit granted for such goods and any such goods which are dutiable and which are unaccompanied by a permit or do not correspond with the specification contained in the permit produced, shall be detained and shall be liable to confiscation. Thus Section 5(3) empowers a Land Customs Officer duly empowered by the Chief Customs authority in this behalf to detain and to confiscate in certain cases any goods situate in any area which, in view of the extent of the operation of the Act, includes the whole of India. If the view contended for by Mr. Burman be accepted, viz., that the Land Customs officer has jurisdiction only to the belt adjoining a foreign frontier, it would be impossible to work out the provisions of Section 5(3) of the Act.

7. The Land Customs Act, as its preamble indicates, was intended to safeguard 'the levy of duties of customs' on certain goods imported or exported by land from or to any territory outside India. In interpreting Section 3 which is the empowering Section, we must take into account the other provisions of the Act and read the Section in the light of the preamble and we should not put such interpretation as would frustrate the very object for which the Act was passed. The interpretation which we have suggested is supported by the terms of the Sea Customs Act.

8. Bose J. seems to be of the opinion that certain clauses appearing in Section 9 of the Land Customs Act indicate that a restricted view of the jurisdiction of Land Customs Officers was intended. I do not agree. Section 9 of the Land Customs Act makes certain provisions of the Sea Customs Act which are mentioned in the Schedule of the Land Customs Act, to be attracted in cases coming within the operation of the Land Customs Act. The Sea Customs Act extends to the whole of India. If one refers to certain clauses of Section 167 of the Sea Customs Act, e.g., Clauses (2) and (3) which is attracted under Section 9 of the Land Customs Act, the conclusion follows that the operation of the Land Customs Act which makes the Sea Customs Act applicable to seizure of goods throughout the whole of India, is concurrent.

9. In my opinion, the above discussion clearly leads to the conclusion that a Land Customs Officer can be appointed in respect of any area which adjoins a foreign frontier and that such area need not be limited to a belt of reasonable depth abutting on the foreign frontier. The notification which is envisaged in Section 3 of the Land Customs Act may provide that a Land Customs Officer can be appointed in respect of any zone in India provided the zone abuts on a foreign frontier.

10. In my view the contention of Mr. Eurman cannot be accepted. This conclusion necessarily leads us to hold that the Inspector and other Land Customs Officers were duly empowered to detain goods at Bhagalpur even though Bhagalpur did not abut on any foreign frontier and was situate at some distance from such frontier.

11. Mr. Burman further contended that the effect of certain notifications issued under the Land Customs Act pointed to the conclusion that the intention of the framers of these notifications was to limit the jurisdiction of the Land Customs Officer only to a belt of reasonable depth abutting on foreign frontier. I shall refer to the notifications to which our attention was drawn by learned counsel on both sides. The notification No. 15 dated 13-12-1924 which was published under Section 5(3) of the Land Customs Act empowered all Land Customs Officers to exercise powers under Section 5(3). Notification No. 5 dated 27-2-1948, which was published under Section 3(1) of the Land Customs Act, 1924, appointed with effect from 1-3-1948, the Collectors of Central Excise, * * Allahabad, Calcutta, * * to be Collectors of Land Customs 'for the areas in their respective jurisdictions adjoining the land frontiers of the Dominion of Pakistan'.

Mr. Burman contends that the governing expression in this notification consists of the words 'adjoining the land frontiers of the Dominion of Pakistan' and argues that the jurisdiction of the Land Customs Officer was limited to only adjoining areas. In my view this is not a reasonable interpretation of the notification. The jurisdiction of the Collectors of Central Excise* * Allahabad, Calcutta, * * was limited to certain zones for administrative purposes. What the Notification intended was to appoint Collectors of Central Excise, Allahabad, to be Collectors of Land Customs of the zone in which Allahabad was situate and which had a land frontier of the Dominion of Pakistan. So also, the Collector of Central Excise, Calcutta, was appointed Collector of Land Customs for the zone adjoining the land frontier of Pakistan in which Calcutta was situate. It was not intended by the Notification to limit the jurisdiction of the Collectors of Central Excise, say of Allahabad and Calcutta, only to the belts which adjoined the frontier of the Dominion of Pakistan. The expression to which reference has been made merely describes the particular zone in regard to which a particular Collector would have jurisdiction.

The same remarks apply to the Notification No. 6 of the same date which refers to the jurisdiction of the subordinate staff. Reliance was placed on Notification No. 7 of the same date. It may be pointed out that Notification No. 7 was made not under Section 3 of the Land Customs Act but under Section 4. This Notification could therefore have specified only the land customs stations or land customs routes which are referred to in Section 4 and could not be intended to and in fact did not lay down the land customs area which is contemplated in Section 2(g) of the Land Customs Act. Mr. Burman however referred us to the heading occurring in two places in the Notification where words used are 'Land Customs Area under the jurisdiction of the Collector of Central Excise, Calcutta.' This was inserted not with a view to limit the Land Customs Area but to specify the particular zone within which the land customs stations and the land customs routes mentioned in the Notification are situated. In other words, they were inserted with a view to emphasise the fact that the land customs stations and routes were located within the land customs area which appertain to the jurisdiction of the Collector of Land Customs. Calcutta. There is therefore no force in the contention raised by Mr. Burman based on these Notifications.

12. Mr. Burman raised a further argument based on certain Notifications made on 10-3-1951. I may refer to Notification No. 8 dated 10-3-1951. It was a Notification under Section 37 of the Central Excise and Salt Act, 1944 (Act 1 of 1944). The Notification amended Rule 2(ii) (A) of the Rules framed under the said Act. Sub-clause (d) was substituted by d(1) and the Collector of Central Excise, Calcutta, was stated to have jurisdiction over the States of West Bengal and Orissa. After Sub-clause (j) a new Sub-clause (k) was added which stated that the Collector of Central Excise, Patna, will have jurisdiction over the State of Bihar. The contention of Mr. Burman is that the effect of this Notification was to limit the jurisdiction of Collectors of Land Customs Calcutta and of the subordinate staff which was determined by Notification Nos. 5 and 6 dated 27-2-1948, to the States of West Bengal and of Orissa and to exclude Bihar from the province of their jurisdiction on and from the date of the Notification viz., 10-3-1951.

This contention is no doubt plausible but it seems to me that it has no substance. Notifications Nos. 5 and 6 dated 27-2-1948, referred to thethen existing jurisdiction of the Collectors of Central Excise and of subordinate staff as descriptive of the area in regard to which the Collector of Land Customs and its subordinate staff would exercise jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Land Customs Collector or the subordinate staff was not made dependent on the retention by the Collector of Central Excise or the subordinate staff of their existing jurisdiction by the Central Excise and Salt Act 1944. It cannot therefore be urged that on 10-3-1951, the jurisdiction of the Collector of Land Customs, Calcutta, was limited to the States of West Bengal and Orissa. The original jurisdiction which had vested in him under the Notification No. 5 was not, in my opinion, taken away as a result of this amendment and consequent curtailment of the jurisdiction of the Collector of Central Excise. The same remarks apply to the subordinate staff. The contention raised by Mr. Burman based on these Notifications must therefore be overruled.

13. For the reasons given above, I am of opinion that the view taken by Bose J. cannot be sustained. It must be held that the detention of the goods on 19-3-1951, and the subsequent order made by the Collector were made with jurisdiction. The respondent's application under Article 226(1) of the Constitution is ill conceived.

14. The appeal must therefore be allowed, and the application filed by the respondent under Article 226 of the Constitution of India must be dismissed.

15. In the circumstances of the case we are of opinion that there will be no order for costs either in this Court or before Bose J.

Debabrata Mookerjee, J.

16. I agree.


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