1. The impugned orders which are the subject matter of this Special Civil Application can easily be set aside on one ground, namely for violation of the principles of narmal justice.
2. It is unnecessary to dilate at any length upon the facts of this case, which we propose to set forth only to the extent that is essential for the purpose of this judgment.
3. The petitioner is a tobacco merchent having his private bonded warehouse at Malad. He holdas a Cenral Excise licence in Form L-5 for storing non-duty-paid tobacco. On 6th Septemberm 1965, the Deputy Superintendent, Central Excise attached to the preventive Brance visited the Petitioner’s ware house and seized 194 bags from that warehouse on the ground that the goods in the bags did not tally with the goods described in the register. The necessary panachanama was made of the seizure of the goods which were assessed by the panchas at Rs. 1,500. On 4th February, 1966, a show cause notice was issued to the petitioner, wherein breach of Rule 151 (c) and (d) of the Central Excise Rules, 1944 was alleged, and the petitioner was asked to show cause why the tobacco “privately removed should not be demanded under Rule 160 of the Central Excise Rules, 1944”. The petitioner sent his reply to that show cause notice. On 30th November, 1966, the Assistant Collector of Central Excise, namely, the 1st respondent, passed an order holding the petitioner guilty of committing a breach of Rule 151 (c) and (d) of the Central Excise Rules and imposed a certain penalty and ordered confiscation of 194 bags, giving an option to the petitioner of redeeming the goods on payment of a fine of Rs. 400. The 1st respondent also demanded duty on 6562,20 kilograms of tobacco. Against that order, on 4th march, 1967, the petitioner preferred an appeal to the Collector of Central Excise, namely, the 2nd respondent. That appeal was disallowed on 17th October, 1968 by the 2nd respondent. Against that order, on 19th April, 1969, the petitioner preferred a revision application to the Union of India, namely, the 3rd respondent. On 9th December, 1970 the 3rd respondent modified the order, inasmuch as the quantity of tobacco on which duty was demanded was reduced from 6562.20 kgs. to 4540 kgs. the fine in lieu of redemption was reduced from rs. 400/- to Rs. 100 and the penalty was reduced from Rs. 250/- to Rs. 50/-. Except for these modification, the revision application was rejected.
4. It is the grievance of Mr. Vashi, the learned cousel appearing on behalf of the petitioner, that the rules of natural justice were violated, inas much as the appellate and revisional authorities called or reports from their respective subordinates inviting comments on the grounds of appeal but despite that, these reports were notfurnished to the petitioner though requested for.
5. Mr. Manjrekar, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents fairly conceded that these reports had been called for by the applleate and revisional authorities respectively and that these reports were not shown to the petitioner despite his request. However Mr. Manjrekar sought to justify this refusal on the ground that there was nothing prejudicial in these reports, which were of a formal nature, and that no aprejudice was in fact caused to the petitioner. Hence according to Mr.Manjrekar, copies thereof were not furnished to the petitioner.
6. Whether these reports were of a formal nature of prejudice was or was not caused to the petitioner, was not a matter for the concerned authority to decide. It was incumbent upon the concerned authority to have furnished copies of these reports to the petitioners which admittedly was not done despite the petitioner request. In this state of affairs, we hold that the principles of natural justice were not observed, and on that ground alone this special Civil Application deserves to succeed.
7. We, therefore , set aside the appellate order of the 2nd respondent and the revisional order of the 3rd respondent and remand the case back to the appropriate appellate authority which shall come to its finding on the materials before it and in then observations made by us above. Rule absolute. No order as to costs.