‘Illegal’: Bombay HC Raps State Excise Department For Seizing Ethanol From JNPT, Directs Immediate Release

‘Illegal’: Bombay HC Raps State Excise Department For Seizing Ethanol From JNPT, Directs Immediate Release

In December 2021, the Bombay High court, held that Ethanol does not fall within the purview of the Bombay Prohibition Act, and therefore the state excise authorities cannot exercise any jurisdiction over the product

Rahul MUpdated: Saturday, December 23, 2023, 07:46 PM IST
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FPJ

Mumbai: The high handed action of the state excise department officers in seizing a consignment of Ethanol, after it was cleared from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has come under the scrutiny.

In December 2021, the Bombay High court, held that Ethanol does not fall within the purview of the Bombay Prohibition Act, and therefore the state excise authorities cannot exercise any jurisdiction over the product.

Following an earlier order from the court, a consignment of 28.000 litres of Ethanol, imported by K Raj and Company, was cleared from JNPT on November 4. However, the same was seized by the officers of the state excise department on December 11 when it was being transported out from the port.

The excise officials not only seized the goods but also took photographs with the consignment and issued a press release claiming that they had seized an “illicit” stock of Ethanol being portrayed as a laboratory chemical.

'High-handed, illegal action of excise department': Court

Frowning upon the “high-handed” and illegal action of the excise department, the high court, on December 19, said that there could be no reason for the excise officials to seize the Ethanol stock of the company, except perhaps to cater to the private interest of third parties - competitors of K Raj and Company which owned the Ethanol stock.

“We cannot countenance the officers of the Excise Department acting in such an illegal and high-handed manner. There are rules and regulations of seizure, they cannot be party to any vilification campaign to damage the business standing and reputation of the traders,” said a division bench of Justices Girish Kulkarni and Jitendra Jain.

It further added: “When it was clear that the goods in question were not prohibited goods and were being dealt with by the petitioners lawfully, the Excise Officials, disregarding all canons of law, could not have painted the petitioners as criminals.”

An additional chief secretary has been directed to enquire into the entire episode and take “appropriate actions, civil and criminal, against the concerned officials”. The inquiry has to be completed within three months and the report to be submitted to court on January 9.

“Any high handed and illegal approach on the part of such officials, infringing the fundamental rights of the citizens is required to be enquired and taken to the logical conclusion by holding an appropriate inquiry as the law would mandate,” the bench said.

The court also directed the excise department to release the seized Ethanol immediately.

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