PESHAWAR: Effective steps are required to enforce customs laws which are allegedly being violated by some customs officials and are bringing a bad name to the department.
This was stated by Peshawar Tax Bar Association member and lawyer in Peshawar High Court (PHC) Advocate Sana Gulzar while talking to Customs Today.
She said that violation of Customs Acts also creates uncertainties for traders and transporters who make millions of rupees investment for the promotion of their businesses.
“Importers often come to me with cases filed against them by the Customs Department,” Gulzar said, adding the PHC grants them relief in most of the cases pleaded by her.
Advocate Sana Gulzar deals with customs-related matters in the PHC and has recently won a case against the Customs Department in which a truck driver was ‘wrongly’ arrested on smuggling charges. She also brought the impounded truck back to the driver.
When asked about the use of Sections 25, 32-A and misuse of authority by various inspectors, she said cases are filed against the Customs Department in such cases. She added that the acts of a few individuals defame the whole department.
Gulzar said that the law clearly states parameters of Sections 25, 32-A as well as the sub-sections also state that no checking would be done after complete clearance of goods from ports.
“The authority of inspectors in fields is to check documents to curb smuggling rather than demanding physical handling of trucks,” she said.
Advocate Gulzar added that the Peshawar tax bar had asked the Customs Department on various occasions to work strictly in accordance with the customs acts.
She said that a meeting was called in by president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry a few days ago in which the issue of bribe, allegedly demanded by officials from importers for clearance of their consignments, was discussed. She said that a protest was recorded with the Customs authorities and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was asked to take action against corrupt officials.
Gulazar added, “I have received many complaints against violation of section 32, sub-sections 7 A and 25 of the Customs Acts 1969 for which I will take the matter to the court very soon.”
In their complaints, the importers allege that the Customs officials violate Customs Acts on check-posts and ask for details which don’t come in their domain.
It is worth mentioning that even the superior courts have repeatedly held that the Customs Directorate General of Intelligence have no mandate to examine, assess or seize goods that are already cleared by the appropriate appraisement staff. They have emphatically held that the said Directorate does not have powers to exercise or invoke Section 25 or Section 32 (mis-declaration) of Customs Act, 1969. [Refer The Honorable High Court Judgments 2005 P T D 23 (Annex- B) and 2004 P T D 2994 (Annex – C)].
Sources added that the honorable superior courts have repeatedly held that the domain of the Customs Directorate of Intelligence is to stop smuggling. When certain staffers are busy in their illegal activities of examination and assessments of already cleared goods, they lose their focus on smuggling activities, rather even they allow smuggled goods to transfer from place to place for bribe. Thus, the country suffers trillions of rupees losses in smuggling and corruption at the hands of such few notorious staff of the Customs Directorate of Intelligence.
Sources revealed that DIT Sukkur recently seized goods which were lawfully cleared from port by appraisement staff. However, one notorious Inspector of DIT Liaqat Ali stopped a truck on road and on refusal to fulfill his illegal demands by the importer; he made out a case of mis-declaration and seized the goods along with vehicle illegally.