At, High Court of Judicature at Calcutta
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SUSANTA CHATTERJI
For the Appearing Parties: Moloy Chakravarty, Suchit Banerjee, Advocates.
SUSANTA CHATTERJI, J.
(1). The present Rule was issued on 2-7-1979 at the instance of the writ petitioner praying, inter alia, for an appropriate writ of Mandamus commanding the respondents to forbear from acting or further acting or giving any effect or further effect or taking any steps or further steps on the basis of the impugned order dated 23-6-1979 being Annexure 'C' to the writ petition and further commanding the respondents to proceed and implement in accordance with the order dated 31-5-1979 being Annexure 'A' hereof and other consequential reliefs on the ground that under the provision of Section 48 of the Customs Act, 1962, the Customs Authorities are the proper authorities for the purpose of selling the goods in question inasmuch as the Port Trust authorities only hold the custody of the goods in question on behalf of the Customs authorities. It is further stated that under Section 150 of the Customs Act, 1962 the procedure for the sale of goods which are not confiscated under the provision of the said Act as laid down the Customs authorities are the proper authorities for the purpose of selling the goods in question. It further appears from the record that the subsequent attempt by the Port Trust authorities holding custody of the goods on behalf of the Customs authorities to sell the goods in question to respondents Nos. 7 and 8 is in arbitrary decision taken whimsically and without any application of mind. From the materials on record, it further appears that in the letter dated 31-5-1979 written by the Assistant Collector of Customs that the two lots have been sold to the highest bidder. The price of the said goods was increased to Rs. 9,00,000/- as against Rs. 8,00,000/-. The attention of the Court has been drawn to Annexure 'A' wherefrom it appears that there was a discussion between the Collector of Customs and the Chairman of the Port Trust authorities over the matter and during such discussion the Chairman, Port Trust Authorities informed that by private negotiation the Port Trust had obtained an extra amount of Rs. 60,000/- for these two lots and that on principle the lots should go to the highest bidder. Subsequent to the discussion there had been some written offers made by the interested parties to the Collector of Customs for the two lots and it was decided to sell these two lots to M/s. National Steel Corporation, the highest bidder and the same was confirmed with intimation that they should deposit the amount to the Port Trust.
(2). The present writ petition is contested by the Port Trust authorities. Mr. Banerjee appearing for the Port Trust authorities submit that the Port Trust authorities by implication should be deemed to be the owner of the goods and there is no bar and/or impediment to release the goods as the petitioners have made prima facie payment. Having heard in details and looking into the materials on record this Court does not appreciate why the Port Trust Authorities claim him as the owner of the goods. Since there was an auction sale at the instance of the Customs authority and the amount was increased there is no bar and/or impediment to grant the relief to the petitioner in the manner as sought for. The stands taken by the Port Trust Authority does not appear to be just and fair.
(3). Considering this aspects of the matter the writ petition is allowed. The Rule is made absolute. There wi
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ll be an issuance of appropriate writ by quashing the letter dated 23-6-1979 copy of which is Annexure 'C' to the writ petition. The respondents are directed to act in terms of the stand taken according to the order dated 31-5-1979 copy of which is Annexure 'A' to the writ petition within a period of eight weeks from date. (4). There will be no order as to costs.