Decided on August 20,1986



S.Kalyanam, - (1.)THIS appeal is directed against the order of the Collector of Customs, Madras dated 15.4.1986 imposing a fine of Rs. 20,000/- under Section 125 of the Customs Act, 1962, hereinafter referred to as the Act.
(2.)The appellant herein filed a shipping bill No. 3608 dated 29.11.85 at the Madras Customs House for export of 23 bundles containing 5560 pieces of Full Chrome Goat Suede lining finished leather valued at Rs. 1,95,867/- FOB. The exporters have furnished a declaration in the shipping bill that the goods sought to be exported were covered by Item e(2)(ii) of 15:8170/79 and entitled to be cleared duty free. Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue Notification No. 333-Cus. dated 2.8.1978 as amended by Notification No. 282/85-Cus., dated 30.8.1985 exempts finished leathers of goat, sheep and bovine animals and their young ones, when exported out of India from the whole of duty of customs leviable thereon under the Second Schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 w.e.f. 1.9.85 when they satisfy the standards as specified for such finished leathers by the Indian Standards Institution in IS: 8170/79. The shipping bill was assessed to 'nil' duty by the proper officer and a 'let export order' was given. Subsequently, on receipt of certain intelligence, the goods were re-examined by the authorities and on such re-examination, the authorities found that the goods sought to be exported were not finished leather goods entitled to exemption in terms of the aforesaid notification of the Finance Ministry and instituted proceedings which ultimately resulted in the present impugned order, now appealed against.
Shri Rajaraman, the learned consultant appearing for the appellant submitted that once the authorities, after examination of the consignment gave a 'let export order, it would amount to an order of adjudication in terms of Section 51 of the Act and the correctness of the order can only be impugned and called in question by the Collector of Customs by exercising the power of review in terms of Section 129-D(2) of the Act. In the instant case, the impugned order purporting to be an order of adjudication by the original authority once over, is not legally tenable. It was further urged that the goods in question were only finished leather and this issue itself was not free from doubt even among the authorities of the Customs who eventually had to refer the matter to" the expert opinion of Central Leather Research Institute, Madras. The learned consultant also assailed the correctness of the opinion of the CLRI dated 16.12.1985 and contended that an opportunity to cross examine the officer who analysed the sample was not given to the appellant with the result, the impugned order is vitiated in law. It was further urged that the goods in question have undergone all the seven processes specified in IS: 8170/79 and at any rate, if there is any doubt even among the Customs authorities necessitating them to re-examine the consignments and seek the opinion of an expert, a benefit would arise in the circumstances which should ensure in favour of the appellant.

(3.)HEARD Shri K.K. Bhatia, the learned Senior Departmental Representative.

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