The Customs Act, 1962 came into force from 1-2-1963 have 161 sections and it extends to whole of India. As of July 2022, there are about 839 Central Laws. It was just one of the 839 laws for me till August 1981. I was reading in newspaper regarding seizure of imported electronic goods from Musafirkhana, Behndi bazaar, Dongri by Custom Officers. I remember an exclusive news regarding Supdt. D.L. Gawade seized three different consignments of goods in a single day. At that time along with gold bars, wrist watches, cloth named double ghoda, double net ( used to wear by Film star Rajesh Khanna) was booming in grey market.
On 10th August 1981 with appointment letter of LDC in hand I reported Shri Waghmare , Office superintendent of Per. & Estt.. While giving me oath Shri Waghmare showed me small book of Customs Act 1962 and said “This is Geeta, Quran, Bible for you.” This Geeta, Kuran, Bible was my Guru for 39 years 2 months and 11 days , i.e. till my retirement.
Revenue is most important for development and progress of nation. “All undertaking depend on finance. Hence foremost attention must be paid to the treasury. Thus, when the receipts and expenditure are properly earned for, the King will never find himself in financial or military difficulties. Sometimes, the army is the means of securing wealth acquired; but wealth is always the means of securing both the treasury and the army. Just as one does not collect unripe fruits, he shall avoid taking tax that is not due because that will make the people angry and spoil the very source of revenue. Tax should be levied once a year, and should not prove burdensome for the public ” Chankya wrote in Arthashatra 1400 years ago.
After Aug. 1994, I promoted as Preventive Officer . I remember during 1998-2000 I was posted in Rummaging and Intelligence and worked as OSD. I was Confidential Assistant (C.A.) to Commissioner (Preventive) Shri Amarjit Singh Buck . Sir used to motivate all staffs and used to hold section wise weekly meetings. The effect of motivation resulted in 2 big cases of seizure of 300 gold bars and 600 gold bars, from 2 different vessels, in short span of 1 month.
During my 39 years of service I participated in many cases of which three cases I still remember.
1. In year 2002-2003, I was posted in SIIB of Air Cargo Complex. Supdt. A.K. Sharma, was in-charge and Supdt R.K. Jindal, Sudpt. Harname and I.O.s Anil Jain, Smita Nambiyar, Lalita Phatak and myself were in team. There was vague input regarding misuse of DGFT licence and duty exemption schemes benefits. Supdt. A.K. Sharma noticed one consignment of re-export of Exhibition goods of high value and prima facie duty evasion appeared to be Rs. One Crore. Firm’s official address and directors address was that of Beharampada, slum area of Mumbai. We visited the address and found 10X7 small room. On enquiry, we found the director named A was working as cook in NCPA Apartment, Mumbai. Other directors of company were sweeper and domestic workers, all working for Mr. B of NCPA Apartment. Mr. B is British citizen having PIO card. We updated the case to Shri Y. G. Parande, Commissioner and immediately issued Red Alert against Mr B and officers were deployed for surveillance round the clock near NCPA Apartment where he had owned two flats. Mr. B was on the run and not responding. Hence we sealed both the flats. Finally he surrendered, we arrested him and Court granted him four days judicial Custody. Commissioner Parande Sir instructed that we should oppose his bail unless he paid entire duty amount of Rs. One Crore. On the date of hearing Friday at 11 am, Adv Shri Satish Mane-Shinde Defence Advocate informed Hon’ble Court that his client is ready to pay 65 lakhs and produced demand draft. Public Prosecutor Ms. Nitee Punde strongly opposed the same and insisted for the entire duty amount. Then Defence Advocate requested for keep back the matter for afternoon session. Court allowed the same. I informed the update to Commissioner Sir. Then at 12.30PM I received call from PC informing Matter is coming within 20 minutes. Hence, I rushed to the court. Defence Advocate produced DD of the remaining amount of 35 lakhs. On behalf of Department, I received the DD amounting to Rs One Crore and Court granted him bail. I immediately updated the recovery of entire duty to Commissioner Sir. I also contacted the Manager of State Bank of India as Treasury was to close by 3PM and next two days were holidays. I requested them to allow us extra few minutes if required. However, I managed to reach well in time at 2.15 PM and was able to deposit the duty amount of Rs. One crore in govt Treasury on the same day.
2. Seizure of Gold chain with gold pendant embedded with 12 big diamonds v/a Rs.1,20,35,000/- ( Rupees One Crore Twenty Lakh Thirty Five thousand only )
In year 2007, I was posted in Air Intelligence Unit at CSI Airport. While on duty on night of 6.5.2007 , our AIU Batch Officers were Superintendents (. Prev.). Alan De Souza, H.M. Nagarkar, I.B. Jha, R. B. Dhone and Intelligence Officers S.P. Hire, Nikita Acharya and myself. We received vague input that there is smuggling of costly wrist watches / Diamonds/ Jewellery from Europe and US sector. More interesting information was that people having shops and outlets of same articles were actively involved in smuggling activity. So, in addition to flights from sensitive sector, we increased scrutiny of passengers from Europe and USA sector. We call it as green sector, as professional smuggling cases are seldom in these countries. Hence we kept vigil on the passengers. It was Delta flight on 6.5.2007, which arrived from USA. Passengers started to come to baggage hall to collect their check-in baggage, after their immigration clearance. I could see a gentleman, in decent suit arrived to baggage hall and directly walked towards exit gate. It means he didn’t have any check in baggage. It was not new thing for any customs Officer, since business tycoons, prefer very small luggage while travelling. I intercepted him at Exit Gate after his walkthrough green channel. I introduced him . He was bit annoyed and was reluctant to give answers to my questions. The Passenger R. Bajaj was holding USA Passport. He was also holding electronic Ticket number issued in his name but he did not travel on this ticket. Instead, he travelled on a revalidated special service ticket by paying 200/- USD on 6.5.2007 by flight number DL-16 for journey New York Kennedy to Mumbai. He was also having Boarding pass for sector New York to Mumbai dated 6.5.2007 in his name with no checked-in baggage. He was having in his possession one black coloured handbag. In a while going through his passport, I could see that he was frequent flyer. Every page of passport had multiple stamping of his arrivals and Departures from Mumbai. I was trying to talk to him in friendly way, like asking him how was the flight, jet lag, his age, about his jacket and so on. I slowly started to ask him, personal information. When I heard that he is in jewellery business since a decade, I became alert. I kept asking what exactly he is doing. I continued to talk saying I always wonder how these Jewellery experts are so quick to understand. Meanwhile, I was observing that he was getting little agitated. I could guess that if I make any wrong question, he would grab a chance to shout at me. We have had such experiences, very frequently. I, then realised that he had tightly closed neck with tie. While returning passport I asked him, if he was carrying any dutiable goods, wrist watches, jewellery. He continued to deny having any dutiable goods to declared to customs. I asked him to get his hand bag scanned again. There was nothing suspicious. I was about to clear him by wishing him, I felt something still unusual about his neck tie. Normally, in journey, people remove their suit and tie. And they wear it, after landing. Commonly, tie is worn only when they wish to get updated for some programme. I signalled to his neck tie and asked him, why so tightly worn. His face became pale. I asked him to open that necktie and get relaxed. His nervousness was increasing. I asked him, “ kya gale me kuchh bandh ke laaye ho kya… sir”. He was dumbfolded. I again asked him the same question, again. He was too shocked to answer. I felt something going abnormal. I signalled my colleague who was watching for suspects at some distance. I, said to that gentleman that we would like to take his personal search. He did not gave any reaction. We took him to personal search room. Our superintendent was also present there. We searched the passenger in presence of witness. While searching the passenger in person, he was more nervous and officer felt something below his shirt. It was a gold chain with gold pendant. And pendant was embedded with 12 big Diamonds. The size of diamonds was unusually big. The passenger was not able to speak anything except admitting it was his mistake. He said, it was worth 25,000 USD and was ready to pay duty. ( Rs 10,02,500/- at bank exchange rate on the day). He didn’t have any invoice for it. The gold chain with diamond studded pendant was seized. He was arrested. When it was valued by the govt approved valuer, it was a bigger surprise for us. It was valued at Rs Rs.1,20,35,000/-.
Further bigger surprise was after his arrest. His legal team filed a Writ Petition in high court, alleging that Customs has falsely implicated him in that case. They prayed for cross examination of entire team of AIU officers. Hon’ble High Court allowed to examine two Officers, to be selected by the Department. Department preferred to allow One Pancha and me to be allowed for cross examination. The cross examination took place at Chamber of Additional Commissioner. Accordingly, defence advocate cross examined me. He had came with questionnaire. Their entire focus was to challenge the panchanama. If they succeed to declared it as null and void, their clint was to great benefitted. Advocate pointed out that panchanama had started, just after 8 minutes of landing of flight. The flight landing time was procured by Air Traffic control. I could explained that flight was parked at aerobridge closed to immigration, the passenger was having business class and was just second passenger to come out of aircraft, he had no luggage to be collected and thus, he could reach to exit gate in 8 minutes time. He asked me few questions which were outside the purview of panchanama. I firmly, yet politely, looking into the eyes of that advocate, with smiling face denied all allegations and continued to reply NO, This is not True.” (This technique of answering the defence advocate, I had learnt from a Retired Officer of DRI , in Court itself). He asked me as many as 42 questions. It took 6 hours for cross examination of myself. The panch-witness, also, could not be fooled by the questions of defence advocate. (Ref. File no. SD/INT/AIU/14/07 AP B.)
3. Seizure of Indian Currency , amounting to Rs.30,00,000/- ( Rupees Thirty Lakh only)
While on Airport uniform duty in 2012, I was posted at Departure Hall. We keep watch for departure passenger for sensitive ports like Dubai, Singapore etc.. Airlines staff before starting checking of their counter, handed passengers’ list for our scrutiny and we circled name of passengers which we like to examine in detail. At the Departure counter Departure Manifest list of Dubai flight was handed over to me by Airline staff. I observed one particular name in list and on suspicion I circled the name. After some time passenger appeared for Airline check in counter and Airline staff brought the passenger with baggage to me. They informed me that passenger have no checked in baggage and only have transparent plastic bag as cabin luggage. The passenger was aged 24 years and his transparent plastic bag was having some vegetables and some articles wrapped in black plastic paper which was visible. Firstly, I examined his Indian passport and observed that he is short visitor. His passport address was of masjid bunder. Musjid Bunder-Mumbai 3, Dongri Mumbai 9, Byculla Mumbai 11 were notorious localities of Mumbai. I felt something odd, and asked him why he was carrying vegetables for which he replied he prefer fresh vegetables as the same was costly in Dubai. Regarding his short stay he replied that due to medical emergency at home, he came urgently for short period and working as salesman in Dubai in a cosmetic shop and shop owner borne all his travelling expenses. On asking contains of wrapped plastic paper packet he informed me that some household articles were there . I was not satisfied with the same and I brought him at my cabin and in presence of Airline staff asked him to open the plastic wrapped material. After opening black plastic wrapped packet Rs. 1000/- Indian currency note bundled in rubber were having 100 notes. Each bundle was containing 100 notes of denomination of Rs.1000/-. Total 30 bundles of Indian currency note resulted to Total value of Rs. 30,00,000/- ( Rupees Thirty lakhs only ) was seized under panchanama . I ensured that panchanama had Annexure with detail serial number of notes. After completing seizure under panchanama same were immediately deposited in Govt. Treasury at State Bank of India. Subsequently report received from bank informing except one single note, all other notes were genuine. The passenger was handover to AIU for further action.
At the time of our Training our senior officers said you have to perform multiple task in this service i.e. seizure, investigation, intelligence etc. to protect our economy and safe guard our revenue and to achieve this gave mantra – Observe everything, with open eyes and ear. Observe passengers face, his body language, movement, go through the passport, ask specific questions and get the required information. If there is something odd like passenger is looking at Customs Counter instead of luggage belt for his luggage then zero on him. These instructions were applied in true sense while performing day to day duty at airport as well as other intelligence units and always yielded good results.
Ref. File no. SD/INT/AIU/UNI/179/12