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  • Writer's pictureRajesh Audithyan

GENIUS INTERPRETATION OF ENGLISH ARTICLES “A” & “THE” -Who is proper officer u/s 28 of customs Act?

Who is proper officer under section 28 of customs Act ?

It is necessary that the answer must flow from the power conferred by the statute i.e. under Section 28(4) of the Act. This Section empowers the recovery of duty not paid, part paid or erroneously refunded by reason of collusion or any wilful mis-statement or suppression of facts and confers the power of recovery on “the proper officer”. The obvious intention is to confer the power to recover such duties not on any proper officer but only on “the proper officer”.

There are only two articles ‘A’ and THE’. `A (or an)’ is known as the Indefinite Article because it does not specifically refer to a particular person or thing. On the other hand, ‘the’ is called the definite Article because it points out and refers to a particular person or thing. There is no doubt that, if Parliament intended that any proper officer could have exercised power under Section 28 (4), it could have used the word ‘any’ - Parliament has employed the article “the” not accidently but with the intention to designate the proper officer who had assessed the goods at the time of clearance.

If it was intended that officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence who are officers of Central Government should be entrusted with functions of the Customs officers, it was imperative that the Central Government should have done so in exercise of its power under Section 6 of the Act. The reason why such a power is conferred on the Central Government is obvious and that is because the Central Government is the authority which appoints both the officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence which is set up under the Notification dated 04.12.1957 issued by the Ministry of Finance and Customs officers who, till 11.5.2002, were appointed by the Central Government - The notification is obviously invalid having been issued by an authority which had no power to do so in purported exercise of powers under a section which does not confer any such power.

The entire proceedings in the present case initiated by the Additional Director General of the DRI by issuing show cause notices in all the matters are invalid without any authority of law and liable to be set-aside.


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Based on above landmark judgment which has clarified who is the proper officer u/s 28 of Customs Act 1962 for recovery of customs dues, CBIC has issued below instruction number 04/2021 Dt 17th March 2021 to issue fresh SCN’s by the jurisdictional Commissionerates from where imports have taken place for all the cases presently being investigated by DRI.

Instruction No. 04/2021-Customs


Government of India

Ministry of Finance

Department of Revenue

Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs


Room No.227B, North Block, New Delhi

Dated the 17th of March, 2021


Principal Additional Director General,

Directorate General of Intelligence (DRI),

New Delhi.


Subject: Show Cause Notice (SCN) dated 19.03.2019 issued by DRI against Sh. Anil Aggarwal and 11 others – Directions to keep SCN pending –reg.

Reference is invited to the letters from your office drawing attention to the judgement dated 09.03.2021 of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 1827 of 2018 in the case of M/s Canon India Private Limited vs Commissioner of Customs. Vide the said judgement, the Hon`ble Apex Court has ruled that the Additional Director General (ADG) of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is not the proper officer to issue Show Cause Notice (SCN) under sub-section (4) of section 28 of the Customs Act, 1962. The Apex Court has concluded that the entire proceeding in the present case initiated by ADG (DRI) by issuing SCN, as invalid and without any authority of law. The Apex Court has accordingly set aside the subject SCN.

2. Further, attention is drawn to the specific reference for seeking Board’s direction with respect to SCN dated 19.03.2019 against Sh. Anil Aggarwal and 11 others where the adjudication of the SCN would get barred by the limitation of time on 18th March, 2021 under sub-section (9) of section 28 of the Customs Act, 1962, on account of the inability to proceed further due to the said judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

3. The matter has been examined. The implications of the said judgement are under active examination in the Board. Therefore, the Board has decided that for the present and until further directions, the said SCN may be kept pending.

4. Further, all the fresh SCNs under Section 28 of the Customs Act, 1962 in respect of cases presently being investigated by DRI are required to be issued by jurisdictional Commissionerates from where imports have taken place.

5. Difficulties, if any, may please be brought to the notice of Board. Hindi version follows.

Yours faithfully,

(Ananth Rathakrishnan)

Deputy Secretary (Customs)

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