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Customs Act, 1969: Exercise of revisional jurisdiction

Section 25D of the Customs Act, 1969 provides for a revisional forum particularly where a customs value determined under section 25A of the Custom Act is challenged. The enactment in this regard has conferred revisional powers, and the revisional authority is required to confine itself to the fore corner of law. The law has not extended the powers of section 25A of the Customs Act on the revisional authority. Under the revisional powers an authority is not required to review the challenged actions with a view to recording the fresh evidence to determine value at revisional stage; such an act appears to be beyond the scope of law. A blurred picture of revision has thus given rise to a cause to review the nature and scope of revisional powers within the framework of law. This write-up accordingly examines the scope of revisional powers under Section 25D of the Customs Act, 1969.

Value for imported goods for customs is determined under Section 25 of the Customs Act, 1969. A sequential order for determination of value has been prescribed under the law.1 However there are numerous reasons for which customs value of imported goods cannot be determined within the framework of law as it involves many complex issues, for example, where parties are related, or where value on the face of it is not reasonable etc. The legislature has accordingly conferred powers on the Collector of Customs and Director Customs Valuation to determine the customs value of imported2 goods.

But where parties are not satisfied with the value determined under Section 25 A of the Customs Act, 1969, an affected party has been authorized to file a revision before the Director General Customs Valuation.3 The scope of revision under the said section has neither been defined nor explained in the Act. Obviously the scope of revision is then to be determined on the basis of principles laid down under the Civil Procedure Code (1908).4

A revision is a re-examination or careful review for correction or improvement. A revision can occur only if it was not materially prejudice to the accused; it is an altered version of an existing work. In revision an authority can call for records to satisfy that a subordinate authority has not:

i. Exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it;

ii. Failed to exercise a jurisdiction vested in him; and

iii. Committed in the exercise of its jurisdiction illegality or material irregularity

Here we may also distinguish between an appeal and revision. Basic difference between an appeal and a revision is that appeal is a right of party, but revision is a discretionary power. An appeal is continuation of the earlier proceedings; in effect the entire proceedings are before the appellate court and it has power to review the evidence subject to statutory limitations prescribed. But in the case of a revision whatever powers the revisional authority may or may not have, it has no power to review the evidence unless the statute expressly confers on it that power.

In a revision an authority “cannot re-appreciate evidence” and perusal of evidence is confined “to find out legality, regularity and propriety” of the order impugned before it.

The consideration or examination of the evidence by the authority in revisional jurisdiction under the law (Customs Act, 1969) is confined to find out that whether or not finding of facts recorded by the court or authority below is according to law and the same does not suffer from any error of law.

It may be noted that revisional power is not and cannot be equated with the power of reconsideration of all questions of fact as a court of first appeal.

Revisional authority is required to get itself satisfied that the decision is according to law, it may examine whether the order impugned before it suffers from procedural illegality or irregularity, and whether or not the authority has arrived at its conclusions without consideration of the material evidence or such finding is based on no evidence or misreading of the evidence or is grossly erroneous, and if allowed to stand, it would result in gross miscarriage of justice, as such challenged action is open to correction because it is not treated as a finding according to law.

The revisional authority is entitled to satisfy itself to the correctness or legality or propriety of any decision or order impugned before it but to satisfy itself to the regularity, correctness, legality or propriety of the impugned decision or the order; the authority is not authorized to exercise its power as an appellate authority to re-appreciate or re-access the evidence for coming to a different finding on facts.

The word ‘propriety’ does not confer power upon the revisional authority to re-appreciate evidence to come to a different conclusion but its consideration of evidence is confined to find out legality, regularity and propriety of the order impugned before it.”

Where a revisional authority is re-examining the evidence or is recording fresh evidence, it is acting as an appeal court whereas the law has not conferred appellate powers to such an authority. Any practice contrary to the above stated principles is illegal and not sustainable in the eyes of law.

Thus where a revisional order goes beyond the scope of review for correction or improvement of impugned order or it is not an altered version of an existing work, such a revisional order transgresses the limits of law.

While exercising powers of revisions; an authority cannot interfere with the findings of fact recorded by the authority of first instance, because re-appreciation of evidence by revisional authority will make a different opinion from the authority’s of the first instance.

(The writer is an advocate and is currently working as an associate with Azim-ud-Din Law Associates Karachi)

1. See Section 25 of the Customs Act, 1969.

2. See Section 25 A of the Customs Act, 1969.

3. See Section 25D of the Customs Act, 1969.

4. See Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

Zafar Azeem, "Customs Act, 1969: Exercise of revisional jurisdiction," Business Recorder. 2016-11-19.
Keywords: Economics , Customs administration , Customs value , Revisional powers , Civil procedure , Customs Act