“On the basis of specific information, Air Customs Officers (Preventive) at IGI Airport, New Delhi, on 09.07.1996 recovered and seized from the aircraft of Lufthansa Airlines flight from Frankfurt to Delhi, 184 gold biscuits of ten tolas each, weighing 21454.400 grams valued at Rs. 1,09,84,652/- concealed in the meal trolleys by two passengers, named Varyam Singh and Ranbir Singh.”
Varyam Singh disclosed the name of one Pramod Kumar. Additional Commissioner of Customs, IGI Airport, New Delhi imposed a penalty of Rs. 15 lakhs on Pramod. Commissioner of Customs (Appeal) set aside the penalty. Based on the observations and findings rendered in the aforesaid ‘adjudication proceedings’, Pramod filed a petition under Section 482 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 before the Del HC for a quashing of the ‘criminal prosecution’. The High Court agreed.
Adjudication proceedings and criminal prosecution can be launched simultaneously. They are independent in nature to each other. The finding against a person facing prosecution in the adjudication proceedings is not binding on the proceeding for criminal prosecution. In case of exoneration, however, on merits, where the allegation is found to be not sustainable at all and the person is held innocent, criminal prosecution on the same set of facts and circumstances cannot be allowed to continue.
In Air Customs Officer, IGI v. Pramod Kumar, [Criminal Appeal No. 123 of 2016] it was not accepted that the exoneration of the Pramod in the adjudication proceedings was on merits or that he was found completely innocent. The High Court’s view was thus set aside!
The Gold Smuggling dates back 22 years. It is a familiar story.