M.N. Roy, J. -
(1.) The petitioner No. 1, M/s. Rungta Sons (P) Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the said company), is an existing company within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1956, and has its registered office at P-16, Kalakar Street, Calcutta, and petitioner No. 2 is a shareholder and director of the same. The said company at all material times carried on and still carries on business inter alia of export of manganese ore and on or about 17th January, 1951, a contract of agency was entered by and between the said company and Hindusthan Mineral Corporation, whereunder the said company was constituted as an agent for the purpose of sale, export and shipment of manganese from the Port of Visakhapatnam to foreign buyers and then the said company has stated to have entered into several contracts with various foreign buyers, for the sale of diverse quantities of Indian manganese ore. Such contracts were for dispatching of the concerned ore from the Port of Visakhapatnam to the foreign buyers. It has been alleged that not only the said company but also the other petitioners, at all material times had and still have rights guaranteed under Articles 19(A)(g) and 14 of the Constitution of India in the matter of carrying on such business or avocation as mentioned above, without any restrictions which were either not in the interest of the general public or were unreasonable and in fact, they have also claimed to possess the fundamental right to be treated equally along with others, including all companies similarly situate without from being hostile, unequal discrimination or from being treated differentially or prejudicially and/or singled out from the other companies so placed like that of the said company for any hostile, unequal and unequal treatment.
(2.) It has been stated that in terms of the above the said company entered into several contracts with various foreign purchasers, for the sale of the commodities as mentioned above, after having the requisite licences from the Central Government for the purpose and from February, 1951 to June, 1952, the said company submitted to the customs authorities shipping bills and other documents including letters of credit opened by overseas buyers in favour of the said company, for the purpose of determining the duties payable under the Sea Customs Act, 1878 (hereinafter referred to as the said 1878 Act), on the said exporters. It was also the case of the petitioners that the Customs authorities levied and the said company paid duty on the basis of the prices as mentioned in the shipping bills and the said company also made or caused to be made 20 shipments of Indian manganese ore from the Port of Visakhapatnam. It has been stated that the customs authorities had collected duty on the basis of the prices mentioned in the shipping bills and the said company had paid the sum of Rs. 3,24,405.12 as and by way of duty in respect of the shipments. It was also the case of the petitioners that the concerned ores were duly exported to the respective purchasers out of this country.
(3.) By the Sea Customs (Amendment) Act, 1955, on or about 7th May, 1955, Sections 29A, 29B and 39 were introduced in the said 1878 Act and thereafter, on or about 29th November, 1959, by five separate orders, the Collector of Customs, Visakhapatnam, purported to demand various sums of rupees from the said company in respect of the first five shipments on the alleged ground of short levy, and by such order the said company was informed that an appeal against the decision would lie to the Collector of Customs, Madras, which could be taken, if so advised within three months from the date of the receipt of the concerned orders. Thereafter, on or about 2/4th August, 1960, a letter was sent by the Collector of Customs, Visakhapatnam, to the said company, requesting that the short levy amount should be paid at an early date and on or about 13th September, 1960, in reply, the said company informed the authorities concerned that (1) no extra duty was payable on the basis of analysis of shipments as adopted by the customs authorities and (2) a copy of the relevant rules or the notification under which such assessment of duty was sought to be made was not supplied and the same was asked for. It should be noted that in the concerned order by the Collector of Customs concerned it was stated that in accordance with the declaration of the said company on the shipping bills, the customs duty leviable in respect of different consignments had been assessed on the basis of the value declared by the said company and shipment was allowed accordingly and such question of assessment, on being finalised, was found to have been made on entry on the basis of prices as prevailing at the time of delivery of the shipping bills or the basis as taken was more than the prices stated in the shipping bills, apart from the fact that the correct assessable value was arrived at on the basis of shipment analysis of the manganese content of the concerned ores as declared by the said company in two cases and as determined by M/s. R.V. Briddges and Company Ltd., Calcutta in three cases. It was the case of the petitioners that no copy of the analysis report as made by the customs authorities, was either disclosed or made known to them and everything was done behind their back and contrary to the principles of natural justice. It has also been stated that before the 13th September, 1960, letter as mentioned above, there were other representations made by the petitioners to the authorities concerned, but they were of no avail or assistance and in fact, they produced no fruitful results.;