It is undisputed that the sole basis for detention of the tanker in question and seizure of the bitumen by the Respondent No.4 was the information collected by him from the toll plaza which revealed that last four digit of the registration number of the tanker in question was similar to the last four digit of registration number of a vehicle recorded in the records of toll plaza. It is also not disputed that the source of supply of bitumen from Mathura is only the Mathura Refinery of M/s Indian Oil Corporation. Even if there was some doubts about the genuineness of the invoice of bitumen accompanying the tanker in question, the Respondent No.4 who was a mobile squad officer of the department at Mathura should have verified the said invoice of bitumen from M/s Indian Oil Corporation, Mathura. But neither he took any steps in this regard nor the Joint Commissioner nor the Tribunal considered it appropriate to verify the invoice and the information and thus they mechanically passed the orders. For the reasons best known to the authorities concerned, they detained the tanker in question and seized the bitumen despite the fact that the information received was not tallying with the full registration number of the tanker in question. Registration number of three tankers containing similar last four digits are registered with the transport department as has been admitted by the Respondents in the supplementary counter affidavit. On verification from the Indian Oil Corporation, Mathura Refinery, Mathura it was found by the authorities concerned that bitumen in the tanker in question was loaded as per invoice accompanying it and thereafter it was not loaded from the Mathura Refinery till 30.6.2014. The bills of repair of the tanker in question in support of proof that it was under repair from the night of 28.6.2014 till 30.6.2014, were not even verified by the authorities concerned so as dispute its genuineness. In the supplementary counter affidavit dated 20.8.2014 the Respondents have even admitted that the tanker in question was detained and bitumen was seized without any basis.
In para 8 of the aforesaid supplementary counter affidavit dated 20.8.2014 the respondents stated that the application of the petitioner to unload the bitumen from his tanker was rejected on 7.2014 and the petitioner was directed to remove the tanker from the body of the engine and then to take away his vehicle. In my opinion even if such an order was actually passed by the respondent No.4, yet it was a complete nullity for reasons that firstly no power is conferred under the Act and the Rules to pass such orders, secondly it was wholly impossible to remove the mounted body of the fully loaded big tanker with bitumen weight 24.60 M.T. from body of the engine and thirdly the petitioner was directed merely to take away the body of the engine which could not be of any use for the petitioner who is engaged in the business of running his tanker on hire.
Respondents have also submitted unconditional apology by supplementary counter affidavit dated 8.2014. All these facts leaves no manner of doubt that the tanker in question was detained and bitumen continued to be seized illegally, arbitrarily and without any basis by the authorities for more than 58 days. The seizure itself was beyond the power conferred under Section 48 of the Act. The quantum of loss suffered by the petitioner as prayed for compensation in the writ petition has not been specifically disputed by the state respondents. The only stand taken by the respondent is that the quantum of damages cannot be determined in writ jurisdiction as held by division bench of this Court in Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 67 of 2006 Raj Pal Road Lines (P) Ltd. Mumbai Vs. State of U.P. and others decided on 1.11.2010. Perusal of the aforesaid judgment shows that in that case the Division Bench found that it was doubtful whether the respondents are responsible for damage or solely responsible for damages inasmuch as some slackness on the part of the petitioners in that case was also found. In the present set of facts it is the admitted case of the respondents that the tanker in question was detained merely on the basis of similarity of last four digits of registration number of the tanker in question with the registration number of some other vehicles/tankers. The respondents acted most arbitrarily, and negligently in not verifying the information received by them from toll plaza so as to find out the complete registration number of vehicle and further not verifying the facts with regard to loading of the tanker in question from the Indian Oil Corporation, Mathura which they did while filing supplementary counter affidavit dated 20.8.2014. Even the reply dated 4.7.2014 (Annexure 8) submitted by the petitioner was not given any weight either by the respondent No.4 or by the Joint Commissioner. The Tribunal also acted mechanically.
Under the circumstances the impugned seizure order dated 5.7.2014, the order of Joint Commissioner under proviso to Section 48 (7) of the Act dated 8.7. 2014 and the impugned order of the Commercial Tax Tribunal, Bench-I, Agra dated 16.7.2014 passed in IInd Appeal No. 223/2014 cannot be sustained and are hereby set aside. The provisional release of the tanker and bitumen in question by order dated 28th August, 2014 is hereby confirmed. Any undertaking furnished by the petitioner before the Respondent No.4 pursuant to the order dated 28th August, 2014 is discharged.