SHIPPING CORPORATION OF INDIA Vs. COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS
LAWS(CE)-1986-10-6
CUSTOMS EXCISE AND GOLD(CONTROL) APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
Decided on October 21,1986

Appellant
VERSUS
Respondents

JUDGEMENT

S. Kalyanam, Member (J) - (1.)SINCE the above appeals arise out of a common order of the Collector of Customs, Cochin dated 17.4.1986 they are taken up together and disposed of by a common order. On the basis of information the rummaging officers of the Customs Department, Cochin proceeded on board m.v. Vishva Prafulla on 25.2.1986 and started rummaging the ship. Search of the vessel resulted in the recovery of 32 Nos. video cassette recorders, one sanyo gas table and 37 Nos. video cassette tapes from the masthouse between hatch No. 2 and 3. The total value of the gods seized was found to be Rs. 4,39,860/-. The goods were seized by the authorities as per law on the reasonable belief that they were foreign origin and they were smuggled in to the country. No one also made any claim for the goods. The Master of the vessel Capt. Maushad Azad appellant herein gave a statement before the authorities on 26.2.19S6 to the effect that the Chief Officer of the vessel appellant D.R. Sharma was in charge of the masthouse and that all the keys as well as duplicate keys of the deck department were under the charge of appellant Sharma who alone was primarily responsible for the goods stored in the masthouse. Appellant Sharma also admitted before the authorities in his statement dated 26.2.1986 that he was in-charge of the masthouse at the time when the goods were seized by the customs authorities. It is in these circumstances after further investigation proceedings were instituted against the appellants which ultimately resulted in the present impugned order now appealed against.
(2.)Shri Telang, Manager of appellant - Shipping Corporation of India contended that the goods under seizure were kept in such a place that neither the Master nor the Chief Officer of the vessel could have been aware of the same. Shri Telang also placed reliance on the statement of the Chief Officer appellant Sharma that he had handed over the keys to the cadets. Since no penalty can be imposed either on the Master or on the Chief Officer unless there is evidence to show that they had knowledge about the presence of the contraband goods under seizure or they connived at the storing of the same, it was contended they cannot be visited with any penalty in terms of Section 112 of the Act.
Shri Bhatia, the learned SDR submitted that huge quantities of contraband goods and places wherefrom they were recovered would clearly indicate that the Chief Officers of the vessel should have known about it. The learned SDR also placed reliance on the statement of appellant Sharma admitting that he was having the keys for the masthouse wherefrom the goods under seizure were recovered. Regarding the Master of the ship the learned SDR urged that having regard to the fact that huge seizure of contraband goods had been effected on 6.2.86 from the same ship belonging to the Shipping Corporation of India at Bombay, the Master should have been more vigilant and cannot deny any knowledge about the presence of the contraband goods concerned in this case.

(3.)WE have carefully considered the submissions of the parties herein. WE find that the Master of the ship himself has given a statement that the masthouse wherefrom the goods under seizure have been recovered was under the charge of Chief Officer Sharma, the appellant herein and that he is responsible for the goods stored in the masthouse. It is also not disputed that appellant Sharma was in possession of all the keys and duplicate keys of the masthouse. Therefore in such circumstances it is for the appellant Sharma to explain and substantiate his plea that he did not know anything about the presence of the contraband goods under seizure in the masthouse which admittedly was under his charge. So far as the Captain is concerned in spite of the fact that huge quantity of contraband goods was seized on 6.2.1986 from the very same ship he does not appear to have exercised proper vigilance and having regard to the nature of the goods and the place wherefrom they were recovered we do not feel persuaded to hold that the Captain could not have known about the presence of the same. Therefore on consideration of the evidence available on record we confirm the finding of the Collector of Customs, Cochin against the Master of the ship as well as the Chief Officer and so far as the quantum of penalty imposed on the Master of the vessel is concerned, we should think that there are enough circumstances justifying a lenient view being taken because admittedly the masthouse wherefrom the goods under seizure were recovered was under the complete charge of appellant Sharma, the Chief Officer who was admittedly in possession of all the keys original as well as duplicate. In such a circumstance it is not unreasonable to hold that the Master presumably placed trust in the Chief Officer and did not exercise due diligence in searching various places of the ship in the control of the Chief Officer. In this view of the matter we reduce the penalty imposed on the Master from Rs. 25,000/- to Rs. 5,000/-. So far as appellant Sharma, the Chief Officer is concerned the records reveal that he has been involved in the other seizure at Bombay when he was also the Chief Officer of the ship at the relevant time.
No evidence has been brought in by appellant Sharma to even probabilise that the goods under seizure were kept in the masthouse under his charge without his knowledge. WE therefore do not find any justification to modify the penalty imposed on appellant Sharma. So far as the Shipping Corporation of India is concerned the conveynace becomes liable for confiscation in terms of Section 115(2) of the Act. Taking the facts and circumstances of this case we feel interests of justice would be met if the fine imposed on the shipping corporation is reduced from Rs. 4,00,000/- to Rs. 50,000/-. Except for the above modifications, the appeal is otherwise dismissed.



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