IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM Crl.Rev.Pet.No. 330 of 2001() 1. K.C.JAMES ... Petitioner Vs 1. THE ASST. COLECTOR OF CUSTOMS ... Respondent For Petitioner :SRI.K.HARILAL For Respondent :SRI.K.V.SABU The Hon'ble MR. Justice THOMAS P.JOSEPH Dated :18/11/2008 O R D E R THOMAS P. JOSEPH, J. -------------------------------------- Crl.R.P.No.330 of 2001 -------------------------------------- Dated this the 18th day of November, 2008. ORDER
Revision petitioner was charge sheeted by the Assistant Collector
of Air Customs for offences punishable under Sections 132 and 135(1)(i) of the
Customs Act (for short, ‘the Act’). He faced trial for the said offences in the Court
of learned Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Economic Offences, Ernakulam
in C.C.No.58 of 1992. He was found guilty, convicted for the offence under
Section 135(1)(i) of the Act and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for
three years and payment of fine of Rs.10,000/-. Aggrieved, he preferred appeal
as Crl.Appeal No.241 of 1996 but that was dismissed. Hence this revision.
3. Following points are raised for consideration:-
(1) Whether conviction of the revision petitioner for the offence
under Section 135(1)(i) of the Act is legal and proper?
(2) Whether sentence is excessive?
4. Perused the records.
5. Case is that revision petitioner along with his wife and child
landed at Thiruvananthapuram Air port having come from Zurich, (via) Colombo
by Air Lanka flight. He came through counter No.1 without declaring any
dutiable goods or gold and moved out. He was carrying two bags. Customs
authorities (PWs 1 and 2) felt suspicious about the conduct of the revision
petitioner, intercepted the revision petitioner and seized a gold bar and a gold
coin along with US dollars. Ext.P2 is the mahazar for the seizure. The gold bar
and gold coin were weighed and assayed by PW3, a gold dealer who certified
that it has purity of 24 carat. Statement of revision petitioner and his wife were
recorded under Section 108 of the Act (Exts.P7 and P8, respectively). PWs 4
and 5 are attestors in Ext.P2 mahazar. Though they did not admit the case in
full, admitted signing Ext.P2. Learned Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate
accepted the evidence of PWs 1 to 3 and found that revision petitioner had
smuggled the gold bar and gold coin into this country and convicted him under
Section 135(1)(i) of the Act. It is contended by the learned counsel that the
evidence of PWs 1 to 3 is contradictory and cannot be believed. It is also
contended that at any rate, there is no proper evaluation of the gold bar and gold
coin and therefore, conviction under Section 135(1)(i) of the Act cannot stand.
Learned counsel placed reliance on the decision in Assistant Collector v.
Ismail (2002(3) KLT SN 91).
6. PWs 1 and 2 gave evidence regarding the alleged
incident. Ext.P8, statement of wife of revision petitioner, recorded under
Section 108 of the Act was not taken into account by the learned Additional Chief
Judicial Magistrate for the reason that the prosecution had no case that she was
not available for examination and hence Ext.P8 is not relevant for consideration.
Ext.P7 is the statement of the revision petitioner recorded under Section 108 of
the Act. In Ext.P7 it is specifically admitted that the gold bar and gold coin were
brought by the revision petitioner to Thiruvananthapuram Air port. Contention as
regards Ext.P7 is that it was got recorded under threat. Learned Additional
Chief Judicial Magistrate observed that challenge to Ext.P7 in that way came
only after five months of the incident and hence that contention cannot be
7. One contention raised by the learned counsel is that
the gold bar and gold coin said to be seized as per Ext.P2 are not produced
before the Court. But, it is not pointed out that there is any provision in the Act
which required the same to be produced in the criminal court. Moreover, it is not
disputed that the same were confiscated by the customs authorities.
Prosecution has produced documents to prove the fact of seizure. Therefore
non-production of the gold bar and gold coin cannot be fatal. On going
through the evidence of PWs 1 to 3, I find no reason to disbelieve them. That
the gold bar and gold coin bore foreign markings along with the fact that revision
petitioner was coming from Zurich by flight revealed that the gold in question
were smuggled. In the circumstances I do not find reason to interfere with the
findings of the courts below regarding the incident.
8. For the offence to come under Section 135(1)(i) of
the Act it has to be shown that the market price of the gold seized exceeded
Rupees one lakh. According to PW3, he adopted touchstone method to
ascertain the purity of gold in the gold bar and gold coin. In the decision relied
on by the learned counsel and referred supra it was held that touchstone method
is not a full proof method to establish the purity of gold. In that view, conviction
in that case was converted from Section 135(1)(i) to Section 135(1)(ii) of the Act.
In this case, PW1 claimed that he assessed the market value while according to
PW2, he did that. Going by the evidence of PW1, he relied on the market value
of gold given in newspapers to assess the market value of the gold in question.
Learned Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate pointed out that those newspapers
are not produced in court and further, that PW1 was not able to say the market
value of gold on the day he was giving evidence but he admitted that there will
be fluctuation in the market value. Going by the judgment of the learned
Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, it is seen that much reliance was not placed
on the version of PW1 regarding the market value. But the learned Additional
Chief Judicial Magistrate thought that it is difficult to think that the value of 531
grams of gold (weight of the gold bar and gold coin together) is less than Rupees
one lakh as on the date of incident. I am not inclined to think that any such
judicial notice could have been taken by the learned Additional Chief Judicial
Magistrate, particularly as there was no material before that court to find what
exactly was the market value of gold on the date of incident. Therefore, I am
persuaded to accept the contention of the learned counsel that on the premise
that the market value of the gold is above Rupees one lakh, conviction of the
revision petitioner for offence under Section 135(1)(i) of the Act cannot be
sustained. Conviction of the revision petitioner is altered to one under Section
135(1)(ii) of the Act.
10. It is contended by the learned counsel that
imprisonment is not mandatory for offence under Section 135(1)(ii) of the Act.
Learned counsel submits that revision petitioner has already undergone
imprisonment for nine days (from 8.12.1991 to 17.12.1991). It is also submitted
by the learned counsel that almost 17 years have passed by since the date of
incident and that revision petitioner is not involved in any other case before or
after the incident. Learned counsel brought to my notice decisions of the
Hon’ble Supreme Court as well as this Court where the sentence was modified
as one of fine.
11. Question whether sentence is liable to be modified
has to be depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. Decisions on
the point will certainly be a guideline in deciding that issue. I have altered the
conviction under Section 135(1)(i) i to Section 135(1)(ii) of the Act. Revision
petitioner has already undergone detention for nine days. I am not inclined to
think that after 17 years, revision petitioner has to be sent to the jail particularly
as he is not shown to be involved in any other case before or after the case on
hand. In the facts and circumstances, I am inclined to think that the substantive
sentence awarded to the revision petitioner can be modified as confined to the
period of detention already undergone and sentence of fine is sufficient to meet
the ends of justice. But considering the facts and circumstances of the case the
fine payable by the revision petitioner is fixed as Rs.50,000/-.
Resultantly, revision petition is allowed in part in the
1. Conviction of the revision petitioner under Section 135
(1)(i) of the Act is altered to under Section 135(1)(ii) of the Act.
2. Substantive sentence awarded to the revision petitioner will be confined to the period of detention which he has already
undergone. Revision petitioner is sentenced to pay fine of Rs.50,000/- (Rupees
Fiftythousand only) and in default of payment, to undergo simple imprisonment
for three months. Revision petitioner is granted two months time from today to
pay the fine. Bail bond is cancelled.
Crl.M.P.No.1443 of 2001 will stand dismissed.
Thomas P.Joseph, J.
Crl.R.P.No.330 of 2001
18th November, 2008