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Report on irregularities in Customs tribunal buried, new probe ordered
August, 22nd 2012

A year after an inquiry report admitting irregularities in judgments by Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) benches and appointment of members to the quasi-judicial tribunal was submitted to the Finance Ministry, none of its recommendations has been implemented.

On the contrary, the report itself has ceased to exist in the ministry files. In September 2011, soon after the report was submitted, a one-member committee was set up by the tribunal to carry out a fresh inquiry.

The old reports are therefore no longer valid or exist in the eyes of law, said a Finance Ministry note acknowledging the same.

The two-member committee that submitted its report in August 2011 was constituted following a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against R K Jain, a publisher of journals on excise and customs matters, for writing an editorial alleging large-scale irregularities in Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal.

The petition was subsequently dismissed as CESTAT informed the apex court that an inquiry was underway.

In their report to the Finance Ministry, CESTAT members D N Panda and C Satapathay said that while they had noticed several irregularities in decisions by some of the benches, they had not been able to confirm allegations regarding appointment of members as the files were processed in the ministry, except in the case of former member T J Jayaraman.

In the draft report, the committee had cited irregularities in appointment of members.

CESTAT has 21 members, including president and vice-president, in 10 benches across five cities that hear appeals against orders and decisions passed by the commissioners of Customs and Excise relating to service tax and anti-dumping duties.

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