ISLAMABAD: Collector Adjudication Dr. Akhtar Hussain with judicial background is hardworking and intelligent officer and one of them who set the trends. As collector adjudication he has introduced revolutionary changes and transformed the pattern of issuing show cause notices and Order In Original. In my opinion, these changes may be a guideline for other Adjudication Officers who must be followed. Customs Today has the honour to interview Dr. Akhtar Hussain.
Q 1: How the FBR can improve its adjudication system to ensure quality decisions?
Answer: The formations which make the cases and the adjudicating officers who decide these cases can both contribute to the improvements of the FBR’s adjudication system.
The case-making formations can contribute to drafting of their seizure/contravention reports in a way that stated facts of the case and the coated provisions of law carry a perfect correspondence. These formations can also contribute to collecting of sufficient relevant and reliable evidence in support of their cases.
The adjudicating officers can contribute by writing concise and speaking judgments and orders. It is high time that the adjudicating officers to get rid of a long established tradition of writing ‘last paragraph orders’. The sign of a speaking order is that even the party adversely affected by it begins to think that the order is against but not a wrong one.
Q 2: What can be done to expedite the decision-taking in revenue cases pending in different courts?
Answer: This is precisely the area where the case-making formations have the widest scope to contribute. The officers of the department will have to replace the officials of the department to contest legal battles in these cases. The officers’ value addition at the case-making stage will determine, to a large extent, the quality of a case and the time it takes to reach its final outcome.
Q3: Does FBR need the appointment of technical judicial officers in order to expedite the decision of cases pending before different forums and courts?
Answer: . FBR does not need the appointment of any technical judicial officers for the purpose. It will be enough for the FBR to lay down clear job descriptions of the officers working at different levels in the case-making formations. Presently, the case-making and case-contesting is something which seems to have fallen mainly in the hands of superintendents, intelligence officers, appraisers and inspectors. FBR needs to break this practice.
The FBR’s officers working in the case-making formations themselves are at par with the technical judicial officers. The FBR only needs to clarify these officers’ roles and make them work to play these roles.
Q 4: What are the issues which the case-making formations need to address in the preparation, submission and followup of the cases submitted for adjudication?
Answer: To me the intelligence officers, superintendents, appraisers and inspectors seem to be the chief architects of the cases submitted before me for adjudication. I rarely happen to see the senior officers’ value addition in drafting of these cases. The officers, who sign covering letters of the cases submitted for adjudication, do not seem to have ignored a cursing glance on what lies under the page they are signing.
The signs of an unsupervised lower staff making, drafting and following these cases are apparent in every day proceedings. A large liability is many a time flashed not calculated. In many cases, the basis of determination of liability remains shrouded in mystery. The documents in support of the allegations are many a time missing. The followup officials miss the hearing dates. At times, they have to come out of their offices with adjudicating officers’ telephonic calls.
The above statement of what is presently happening hides in it the prescriptions of its cure. The case-making formations must ensure that the cases they make are supported by calculation sheets and all documentary evidence to substantiate the assertions made in the case. There must be someone in the case-making formations to take stock of how effectively their cases are followed up before the adjudicating officers. The present unenviable situation in terms of drafting and followup of the cases calls for urgent and drastic measures to bring about a change.
Q 5: What are the laws relevant to adjudication which you think need amendment to expedite revenue recovery?
Answer: I will say Section 157(2) of the Customs Act-1969. The proviso to Section 157(2) empowers an adjudicating officer to release against bank guarantee a vehicle seized for having carried smuggled and non duty paid goods. This seems to be a great remedy. In majority of such cases, the vehicle used for the carriage of smuggled and non-duty paid goods is finally confiscated and released on payment of 20 % redemption fine.
If the owner of such vehicle is made wait for conclusion of case proceedings, he unnecessarily suffers financial losses and psychological pain before he finally gets his vehicle on payment of redemption fine which he could certainly secure much earlier.
An equally great provision is missing from Section 157(2) of the Customs Act-1969. Many a time, the non-duty paid goods carried on a vehicle released against bank guarantee are also finally confiscated and released on payment of taxable duty/taxes and redemption fine. Since there is no provision in law for the interim release of seized goods against a bank guarantee, the owners of such goods have to await the conclusion of case proceedings.
The owners of such goods in many cases finally get their goods after payment of taxable duty/taxes and redemption fine. But much is lost in the meantime. In case of perishable goods, the goods lose fitness for consumption. In case of other goods, trends and seasons change lowering the market value of goods.
I think addition of another proviso to Section 157(2) for the seized goods fit for ultimate release on payment of duty/taxes and redemption fine will alleviate a great public suffering. The bank guarantees, if taken against the seized goods, can be immediately made cashable after the conclusion of case proceedings. This will serve the cause of revenue. Instead of landing in appeals, the decisions in such cases will become an immediate source of revenue.