T.P. Nambiar, Member (J) -
(1.) THIS is an appeal filed by the appellant against the orders passed by the Collector of Customs (Preventive), West Bengal, Calcutta, in order No. 43/87-Prev. dated 24-8-1987. In terms of that order a penalty of Rs. 5,000/- was imposed on the appellant under Section 114 of the Customs Act, 1962.
(2.) The case pertains to the seizure of 2524 pieces of bark tanned snake skins contained in post parcels valuing about Rs. 1,26,200/-. The same was in the name of M/s. Globe Trading Company, 50, Chowringhee Road, Calcutta-16 and it was to be exported to West Company. The case of the department is that the same contravened the provisions of Imports & Exports (Control) Act, 1947 (as amended) and the Customs Act, 1962.
The brief facts leading to the above seizure is to the effect that intelligence was gathered by officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Zonal Unit, Calcutta, that one Md. Masood @ Masood Chowdhury of New Delhi, one Md. Amin @ Amin Bhat of Delhi and one J.K. Singh @ Daryami purchased about 70,000 pcs. of snake skins through one Khurshid Alam of Calcutta and sought to clandestinely export a portion i.e. 15 pcs. post parcels to West Germany. These snake skins which were sought to be smuggled out of India belonged to one Sewakram Godhwani of 105, Park Street, Calcutta and was booked by one Ashok Chawla of Indralok Housing Estate. On the basis of this information the officers of Customs, Calcutta, along with D.R.I. Officers intercepted on 5-10-1981 nine export post parcels at Calcutta G.P.O. parcle booking counter No. 3 and six export post parcels from inside G.P.O. parcel bag No. 1 and 2 at Calcutta Air Sorting Division, Calcutta. The consignor's name as written on the post parcels was M/s. Globe Trading Company, 50, Chowringhee Road, Calcutta-16 and the consignee's name was shown as (1) M/S. FOLSCHE KREFTING STR 20, D2800 BREMEN, WEST GERMANY, (2) M/S. ACHIM - OBERN WEST GERMANY. For the purpose of Customs declaration the said post parcels were marked "Cotton Ring Samples". The same were opened and examined in presence of independent witnesses and postal authorities. Nine parcels at Calcutta G.P.O. were found to contain 1486 pcs. of bark tanned skins and six parcels at Calcutta Air Sorting Division were found to contain 1038 pcs. of bark tanned snake skins. Snake skins were declared as banned items under Schedule 1, Part A of the Export Policy 1981-82. These were attempted to be exported out of India mis-declaring them as cotton ring samples. The consignors M/s. Globe Trading Company was found to be non-existent and fictitious. These parcels bore a declaration that the contents of the parcels were less than Rs. 50/- in value, obviously to bypass the prohibition under Section 18(1) of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1972, whereas the actual value of contents turn out to approximately Rs. 1,26,200/-. Thorough investigation and searches in offices, godown and residential premises in Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur, U.P. and Madras followed, detailed narration of which are found in the show cause notice and its Annexure A. Several documents eliciting highly incriminating evidence were seized. Particulars of enquiries with Indian Airlines, Calcutta Telephones and different hotels figure in Annexure B to the show cause notice. The facts and the evidences indicated a very highly planned conspiracy by a group of persons to smuggle out of the country banned snake skirts in a very systematic manner by clandestine methods adopted from the stage of procurement of the snake skins right up to the stage of delivery to the postal authorities for exporting out of the country.
(3.) SHOW cause notices were issued to the parties, namely, M/s. Globe Trading Company, Khurshid Alam, Md. Amin Bhat, Md. Masood, J.K. Singh, S.P. Godhwani, Kishore Godhwani, Anil Rajani and A.K. Biswas (appellant) and Smt. Rita Singh, to explain the matter in writing and to show cause as to why the subject goods under seizure should not be confiscated and why penalty should not be imposed on them under Section 114 of the Customs Act, 1962. In the meanwhile, statements of several persons were recorded by the Customs Officers. The statement of Ashok Kr. Chawla was taken on 12-2-1982 and 13-2-1982. The statement of S.P. Godhwani was taken on 26-3-1982, 14-4-1982, 17-4-1982 and 22-4-1982. The statements of Kishore Godhwani, Khurshid Alam, Md. Amin, Md. Masood, J.K. Singh and Smt. Rita Singh were also recorded by the Customs authorities under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962. The gist of these statements were incorporated in the show cause notice in detail. The parties concerned including appellant filed replies to the show cause notice and they were afforded personal hearing. After adjudication, the learned Collector came to the conclusion that these barked tanned snake skins were liable to confiscation under Section 113(d), (h), and (i) of the Customs-Act, 1962. A personal penalty of Rs. 5,0007- was imposed on the appellant on the ground that the appellant was taking bribe from unscrupulous gangs and abetted the smuggling of the abovesaid snake skins to a foreign country and actively assisted the participants in the illegal act. Being aggrieved by the abovesaid decision, the appellant has filed the present appeal.;