Case: M/s Granules India Ltd. vs. Union of India
Case no.: Civil Appeal no. 593-594 of 2020
Judgment by: Justice Navin Sinha
In a federal system, the judiciary has to perform the role of adjudication and to meet the ends of justice acting as an arbiter of disputes between state and individuals. So in return, it is also the equal responsibility of the state and also its constitutional duty to help and assist the judiciary in its pathway towards justice. Justice is not a one-way process but is a product of the cooperative efforts of all 3 branches of law i.e. legislative, executive and judiciary.
In this case, the appellant had imported 96 tons of chemical “Acetic Anhydride” under three Bills of Entry bearing nos. 290, 291 and 300 dated 01.12.1993, 01.12.1993 and 14.12.1993 through the Inland Water Container Depot (ICD), Hyderabad under the Advance Licence Scheme according to which assignments shall be cleared free of import duty subject to fulfilment of certain norms and conditions under the Custom Notification No. 203/1992, 204/1992, both dated 19.05.1992.
The Notification nos. 203/1992 and 204/1992 were amended by a Notification no. 183/1993 dated 25.11.1993, by which the subject imports became liable for duty, the exemption having been withdrawn. They were further amended by another clarificatory Notification no. 105/1994 dated 18.03.1994 permitting the import of the chemical without customs duty subject to certain terms and conditions.
The appellant was allowed to clear the consignments under the aforesaid three Bills of Entry without payment of duty. Thereafter the appellant was issued a show-cause notice under Section 28 (1) of the Customs Act, 1962 concerning the same consignments as having been imported after 25.11.1993. The appellant made a representation on 20.11.1997 seeking exemption.
In pursuance of the show cause notice the appellant was held liable to duty by order dated 12.2.1998. The respondents while considering the reply to the show-cause notice and fixing liability for payment of customs duty gave no heed and did not make any reference to their notification dated 18.03.1994 and thereby the appeal was dismissed followed by a writ application of Mandamus seeking exemption which was also rejected because there was no arbitrariness on the part of the State and the writ of Mandamus cannot be held. The review application was then filed by the appellant.
- The mere failure to enclose a copy of the notification could not be a ground for denial of relief. Denial of exemption in the facts and circumstances of the case because of the statutory notifications were per se arbitrary.
- The State is the largest litigant as often noted. It stands in a category apart having a solemn and constitutional duty to assist the court in the dispensation of justice. The State cannot behave like a private litigant and rely on abstract theories of the burden of proof. The State acts through its officer who is given powers in trust. If the trust so reposed is betrayed, whether by casualness or negligence, will the State still be liable for such misdemeanor by its officers betraying the trust so reposed in them or will the officers be individually answerable.
SC thereby held that-
- The entire consignment was imported under one advance licence issued to the petitioner before 19.05.1992. The fortuitous circumstance that was the part of the consignment was imported before 25.11.1993 and the rest subsequent thereto is hardly relevant because of the clarificatory notification dated 18.03.1994 that the exemption would continue to apply subject to fulfilment of the specified terms and conditions. the Government itself has clarified by its second notification providing exemption, we are inclined to hold that the petitioner shall be entitled to be exemption for all the three consignments as long as the three consignments are imported under the Advance License scheme.
- It is not the case of the respondents that the consignments imported subsequently did not meet the terms and conditions of the exemption.
- In the opinion of the Supreme Court, it is no defence of the State authorities to contend that they were not aware of their notification dated 18.09.1994. The onus heavily rests on them and a casual statement generating litigation by State apathy cannot be approved.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje