Custody of accused illegal if denial of guilt not conveyed: HC

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the release of a man held in detention by the Customs Department for nearly ten months for alleged duty evasion.

Last Updated: Mar 16, 2011, 20:29 PM IST

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday
ordered the release of a man held in detention by the Customs
Department for nearly ten months for alleged duty evasion.

Ordering the release, a bench of the HC said detention of
a person on the charge of violation of the Customs law is
illegal if the detaining authority is not apprised of his
subsequent denial of guilt.
"Non-placement of the retractions before the detaining
authority clearly vitiates the detention order," a division
bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Manmohan Singh said.

The court`s direction came on a petition filed by Laxman
Dass Jalhotra alleging his son Manish was in illegal custody
since June 14, 2010, after being detained by the Customs
Department under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and
Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act.

Besides Manish, Lokesh Garg was arrested by the Customs
Department after a container, belonging to the M/s Jai Sales
Organisation, was intercepted on February 11, last year on the
allegation of duty evasion.

They allegedly recorded their statements with the
Department which were later retracted by them.

It was alleged that the company, with the connivance of
the arrested persons, was indulging in evasion of customs duty
by way of "mis-declaration of goods in the import documents"
and also by concealing goods in the container.
The seized container had goods which were allegedly
valued at Rs 1.52 crore.

Quashing the detention order, the court said "the
non-placement of the retractions .... before the detaining
authority has vitiated the detention order... the respondents
(Centre and Customs department) are directed to release the
said detenu (Manish) forthwith unless he is required to be in
custody in some other case.

"We can say one thing for sure that the retractions were
of vital importance and were certainly something which could
have altered the satisfaction of the detaining authority."

The department, which got the detention order executed on
September 1 last year, did not apprise the detaining authority
about the retractions of the accused.

"It was obligatory upon the sponsoring authority to place
the retractions of these statements before the detaining
authority....Had the retractions been placed before the
detaining authority, perhaps she would have come to a
different conclusion," the court concluded.

PTI