Pay reward to Customs & DRI informer, HC tells govt

Mumbai, May 15 (PTI) Observing that use of discretionary power to deprive informers from getting rewards will frustrate government policy, the Bombay High Court has asked the Centre, Customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to pay reward amount to an informer within three months.

CBEC Chairman Kaushal Srivastava, who is the administrative head of customs and DRI.
CBEC Chairman Kaushal Srivastava, who is the administrative head of customs and DRI.

“The informers provide information with a legitimate expectation of reward to be received in time. Non-payment of reward amount within a stipulated time will have frustrating effect on the reward policy framed by the government which may perhaps result in not getting information of unscrupulous and anti-social elements thereby causing loss to the exchequer,” observed a bench recently on a petition filed by an informer.

“We are of the opinion that the guidelines enunciated in the reward policy of April 16, 2004, are to be adhered to by all the concerned and the discretion given in the policy to the Reward Committee, cannot be treated as an unfettered power with the authority competent to grant rewards as this may frustrate the basic intention of the government behind framing the policy,” observed Justices A S Gadkari and B R Gavai.

The judges opined that the Customs officers cannot be allowed to take a spacious plea that they were already in receipt of the information since January 2010 and therefore, the petitioner is not entitled for further reward amount.

The court noted that on the basis of specific information provided by petitioner, the authorities were able to recover Rs 2.65 crore by auctioning the confiscated goods.

The judges further observed that the stand taken by the authorities appears to be clearly an afterthought, taken only with a view to deprive the informer/petitioner from his legitimate dues towards his reward as per the official policy.

The affidavit dated March 15, 2014 filed by Deputy Commissioner of Customs is “vague” and appears as if he is either suppressing certain vital information from this court or has filed the affidavit without perusing the entire original record available with his office, the judges noted.

The HC rejected the contention of the Deputy Customs Commissioner that the reward is purely an ex-gratia payment and cannot be claimed by anyone as a matter of right.

The bench held that reward has to be paid in consonance with scheme of April 16, 2004, framed by the government. An informer cannot be left to the whims and caprices or mercy of the respondents or the members of the Reward Committee.

The petitioner, an informer of Customs, had sought a direction to the government to release the reward due to him and a declaration that the government action of not disbursing the reward to him was gross abuse of powers and was therefore illegal, without justification and null and void.