Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, May 26, 2022: Referring to the Customs Act, 1962, the Delhi High Court has opined that prosecution can be initiated if the market price of the goods exceeds Rs 1 crore under Section 135(1)(a) and allowed the petition filed under Section 482 of Cr.P.C.  for quashing a criminal complaint case registered under Sections 132 and 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act.

On the order passed by the Court of CMM, Patiala House Courts wherein personal attendance of the complainant was dispensed with till further orders, the Bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said, “I find that the learned Courts below did not consider that at the stage of Section 200 of Cr. P.C., the exemption can only be given to a public servant who has filed a case in his official capacity, but such exemption is not available with the other witnesses.”

Factual background of the case was such that the Director of Revenue Intelligence(respondent) instituted a criminal complaint case under Sections 132 and 135 (1)(a) of the Customs Act stating therein that intelligence reports had shown that M/s Elgin Electronics was in the business of importing public address systems, sound systems for auditorium etc. without payment of customs duty. The first and second petitioners were the Proprietor and the Manager of the said company. Later, it was discovered that the accused persons committed offences punishable under Sections 132 and 135(1)(a) of the Act. 

Consequently, the Trial Court issued summons to the accused persons-petitioners and  dispensed with the personal attendance of complainant.  Aggrieved by the same, the petitioners challenged the criminal revision before the Additional Sessions Judge which was dismissed by the Revisional Court. Hence, the present Criminal Petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. was preferred by the petitioners. 

The Court opined that in the instant case there was nothing to show that the petitioners made any false declaration or false documents and therefore, the petitioners couldnot be held liable under Section 132 of the Customs Act. It was further observed that in the present case, the complainant was barred by limitation as the provisions of Section 132 if imposed could be extended till six months and the limitation period in the instant case as provided under Section 468 of Cr.P.C. was only 1 year.  With respect to exemption granted to the second respondent, the Bench held that it was the duty of the second respondent to prove its case against the petitioners and show sufficient evidence on record. However, the first respondent  did not examine even the panch witnesses to prove its case. Therefore, the Court below had summoned the petitioner without any material on record for prima facie satisfaction.

The Bench declared the impugned order to be bad in law as the prosecution of the petitioner couldnot be initiated under Section 135(1)(a) since valuation of the goods was less than Rs 1 Crore,  the respondent-department had not examined any witness to prove its case against the petitioner, the complaint was admittedly barred by limitation,  the sanction by the Additional Director for prosecution was invalid and lastly, the Court below while passing the summoning order had not assigned any reason for summoning the petitioner. Thus, the impugned orders passed by the Courts below were quashed and set aside.

Accordingly, the criminal complaint instituted under Section 132 and 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act and all proceedings emanating therefrom were quashed and the present appeal was allowed. 

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