Records for over half of the total 403 cases of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) that are pending for adjudication with the Kolkata Customs Commissionerate are unavailable with the authorities. Out of the total 403 cases, official figures compiled in September show that records are unavailable for about 233 cases as on May 17 this year, while for 19 cases, the files opened against the show-cause notices issued by the DRI have become untraceable.
The total 403 cases pending for adjudication involve revenue of over Rs 782 crore and have seizure value of Rs 5,437 crore. “These are long pending cases with the Kolkata Customs authorities. Show cause notices were issued by DRI in some of the cases, but even for those cases, the files have become unavailable,” a senior official said.
The adjudication authorities of Kolkata Customs have made efforts to locate the records related to the DRI cases and link them with the available records such as adjudication registers, adjudication copies and the database available with the adjudication cell of the Kolkata Customs. Out of the total 403 DRI cases, records of 170 cases were verified from the adjudication records. In 52 cases, original orders have been issued though the copies of adjudication orders are not readily available for all the cases with the authorities.
Queries sent by The Indian Express to the Ministry of Finance went unanswered. Director General, DRI was also contacted for the queries but he refused to comment.
There are 11 customs zones — Delhi, Mumbai-II, Mumbai-III, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi Customs (P), Patna Customs (P), Tiruchirappalli Customs (P), Cochin Customs (P), Ahmedabad — and 60 customs commissionerates in the country. As per publicly available Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) data, latest available only for November 2014, about 5,631 Customs-related cases involving Rs 9,011 crore were pending for adjudication across the country, out of which Kolkata accounted for around 11.5 per cent with 647 customs-related cases involving Rs 828 crore.
About 2,289 cases were registered for evasion of customs duty across the country during 2016-17 (January-November) involving a duty recovery of around Rs 2,338 crore, as per the 2016-17 Annual Report of Ministry of Finance.
As per CBEC guidelines, cases involving duty of Rs 5 crore and above are initiated by the DRI and assigned to Additional Director General (Adjudication), DRI. Group of cases on identical issues involving aggregate duty of Rs 5 crore or more along with cases involving seizure value of Rs 5 crore or more; cases of over-valuation irrespective of value involved and existing DRI cases with erstwhile Commissioner (Adjudication) are also initiated by the DRI and assigned to Additional Director General (Adjudication), DRI.
The officers of the DRI have all-India jurisdiction of investigating cases of customs duty evasion or smuggling. In the cases, where imports or exports have been made by the offender through number of ports/airports/ICDs/ land customs stations, DRI issues single show cause notice, answerable to multiple adjudicating authorities in charge of the ports/airports /ICDs /land customs station through which such imports or exports have taken place. Later, the Board, by exercising its power under Section 4 and 5 of the Customs Act, 1962, appoints a common and/or single adjudicating authority for the purpose of adjudication of the case by issuing a notification.
Show cause notice for demand of duty under Section 28 of the Customs Act, 1962 can be issued by respective adjudicating officers depending upon the powers of adjudication. The noticee is offered ‘personal hearing’ to explain his case before the adjudicating authority, following which the adjudicating authority examines the material placed before them and applies legal provisions to come to a conclusion. Mostly, the issues involved are misdeclaration of the description of the goods resulting in levy of lesser duty, misdeclaration of value, quantity and weight, and non-inclusion of certain components of value in the assessable value.