Kerala High Court directs Customs to refund Rs.7,02,692 to petitioner and emphasizes destruction of seized explosive goods. Detailed analysis of the court’s interim order.
Introduction: A recent writ petition before the Kerala High Court involves a claim for refund and destruction of confiscated goods in an explosive material case. The petitioner seeks relief, urging the court to direct the Customs Department to refund a specific amount along with interest or destroy the confiscated goods and refund the balance. The court’s interim order emphasized the delay in destroying the seized explosive material and instructed the District Collector to ensure immediate action.
Detailed Analysis: The petitioner, seeking a writ of mandamus, highlights the Customs Department’s failure to refund an amount of Rs.7,02,692 along with interest, as ordered by the Settlement Commission. The court, in an interim order, expressed concern over the delay in destroying the seized explosive material and issued directions to the District Collector for prompt action.
The court’s attention was drawn to the fact that despite the Settlement Commission’s order in 2019, the refund process was hindered due to the non-destruction of the confiscated goods. The District Collector was given a two-week timeline to initiate steps for destruction, with a warning of potential summons if no action was taken.
In response to the court’s directive, the Explosives Department, as per the Customs Department’s submissions, destroyed the confiscated goods. However, the Customs Department asserted that the cost of destruction needed assessment and deduction from the petitioner’s refund claim.
Considering the destruction of the confiscated goods and to expedite the refund process, the court directed the Customs Department to process the petitioner’s claim in accordance with the Settlement Commission’s order. The judgment emphasizes the Customs Department’s responsibility to refund the amount, deducting the assessed cost of destruction, within three weeks.
Conclusion: The Kerala High Court’s direction in Shaji K.A vs Commissioner of Customs addresses the delay in processing a refund related to seized explosive material. The court’s order ensures that the Customs Department promptly assesses the destruction cost and refunds the petitioner as per the Settlement Commission’s order. This case highlights the judiciary’s role in expediting administrative processes and ensuring compliance with legal directives in matters of customs and confiscated goods.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF KERALA HIGH COURT
The present writ petition has been filed seeking the following reliefs:
(a) To issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ order or direction, directing the 1st respondent to refund the total amount of Rs.7,02,692 along with interest and to cancel the bond executed by the petitioner forthwith;
Or in the alternative
(b) Issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ, order or direction directing the respondents to destroy the confiscated goods and refund the balance of the excess duty and deposit paid by the petitioner, after deducting the actual cost of destruction of the confiscated goods within a time frame fixed by this Court;
(c) Issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ order or direction directing the 1st respondent to pay interest on delay in grant of refund;”
2. On the last date of posting, i.e. on 17.11.2023, this Court passed the following interim order:
“The Customs Department says it has written letters to the District Collector to take steps to destroy the explosive material seized by them, which the petitioner had imported. The Settlement Commission has directed refund of excess duty paid amounting to Rs.3,02,692/- and a cash deposit of Rs.4 lakhs, totalling Rs.7,02,692/- after deducting the expenses for the destruction of the confiscated goods and also return the bond executed by the petitioner. The Settlement Commissioner passed this order on 27.05.2019.
2. The excess duty paid along with cash after deducting the expenses for the destruction of seized goods is to be returned to the petitioner. Despite more than four years from the date of the order passed by the Settlement Commissioner, no effective steps have been taken for the destruction of the seized explosives. As a result thereof, the petitioner has not been refunded the excess duty paid and the cash deposit.
3. The District Collector is, therefore, directed to instruct the Explosives Department to take immediate steps for the destruction of the seized explosive material. If steps are not taken for the destruction of the material seized from the petitioner within two weeks from today, the District Collector may be summoned by this Court to explain why necessary steps have not been taken despite several communications having been addressed by the Customs Department.
Post the matter on 04.12.2023 for necessary compliance and filing of the statement on behalf of the District Collector by the learned Government Pleader.”
3. Learned Standing Counsel for the Customs Department submits that, as per his instructions, the confiscated goods have been destroyed by the State Government’s Explosives Department. He further submits that the cost for destroying those confiscated goods is to be assessed and deducted from the refund claimed by the petitioner.
4. Considering the fact that the claim for refund of the petitioner in terms of the order passed by the Settlement Commission has not been processed only because of non-destruction of the confiscated goods by the Explosives Department, and now that the confiscated goods have been destroyed, the 1strespondent is directed to process the claim of the petitioner for refund, in terms of the order in Ext.P3 dated 27.5.2019 passed by the Settlement Commission and refund the amount, if any, to the petitioner within a period of three weeks.
With the aforesaid direction, the present writ petition stands finally disposed of. Pending interlocutory application, if any, in the present writ petition stands dismissed.