DRI Officer Is Not ‘The’ Proper Officer’
As the apex intelligence organization of Indian Customs, it is the prime responsibility of DRI to enforce the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962.
The charter of duties of the DRI includes the collection, collation, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence relating to smuggling.
It also, in cases having pan-India repercussions, works out such intelligence on its own.
DRI has over the years, built up a formidable reputation as the premier agency in the field of anti-smuggling on account of its accumulated body of work. DRI has established a vast intelligence-gathering network that relies heavily on traditional human intelligence resources as well as contemporary intelligence-gathering tools.
The 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has held that Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (‘DRI’) has no authority in law to issue a show-cause notice under Section 28(4) of the Customs Act, 1962 for recovery of duties allegedly not levied or paid when the goods were cleared for import by a Deputy Commissioner of Customs who decided that the goods were exempted.
Referring to the provisions of Section 28(4), the Court observed that the obvious intention of the legislature was to confer the power to recover such duties not on any proper officer but only on ‘the proper officer ’.
It held that if the Parliament intended that any proper officer could have exercised power under Section 28(4), it could have used the word ‘ any ’.
The Apex Court in its decision dated 9 March 2021 however clarified that the proper officer need not be the very officer who cleared the goods but maybe his successor in office or any other officer authorized to exercise the powers within the same office.
The issue considered by the Court, in this case, was whether the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had authority in law to issue a show-cause notice under Section 28(4) of the Act for recovery of duties allegedly not levied or paid when the goods have been cleared for import by a Deputy Commissioner of Customs who decided that the goods are exempted. In this case, a show-cause notice was issued under Section 28 (4) to Canon India Private Limited alleging that the Customs Authorities had been induced to clear the cameras by wilful misstatement and suppression of facts about the cameras.