Reward to informer not wholly justiciable
Sukumar Mukhopadhyay / New Delhi August 16, 2010, 0:09 IST
Reward to informer has been a fascinating subject for those who like to have a glimpse of how the underworld operators are brought to book by its own partners and how the later profit from the booty that is finally seized and confiscated. But for the officers working in the preventive department, it is usually seen as a tussle between their desire not to expose the modus operandi of the seizure on the one hand and the necessity to supply details to satisfy the Court on the other. The Supreme Court and the High Courts have therefore maintained a very sharp line of distinction between what should be subject to scrutiny by the judicial authority and what should be the domain of the preventive department which makes the seizure. In one of the latest judgements in the case of D R Chowdhury vs UOI – 2010(255)ELT217(Cal.), theCalcutta High Court has enunciated the principle that the writ jurisdiction of the High Court is only for considering whether the decision making process for giving the reward has been in accordance with the circular issued by the Ministry of Finance but not for not going into the propriety of the decision by prying into the various details. The High Court elaborated that there is a circular No.13011/3/85 – Ad. V dated 30.3.1985 as amended which has made it clear that the reward is purely an ex-gratia payment which (subject to the guidelines) may be grated at the absolute discretion of the competent authority and cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
The Court also held that in the writ proceedings the Court cannot adjudicate the dispute with regard to the extent of the information given by the informer or the exact amount of duty and penalty recovered on the basis of the information. This exposition being one of the latest, has once again reiterated the position which earlier the Supreme Court had occasion to propound in some important cases.
In the case of UOI vs C Krishna Reddy – 2004 (163) E.L.T. 4 (SC), the Supreme Court held that the scheme of the Government for given reward to the informer mentions that reward is an ex-gratia payment and subject to the guidelines and may be granted on the absolute discretion of the authority competent and further that no one can claim the reward as a matter of right.
The Supreme Court has quoted this part of the Government policy for reward quite approvingly. The Court also observed that it is well settled by a catena of decisions of this Court that a Writ of Mandamas can be granted only in a case where there is a statutory duty imposed upon the officer concerned and there is a failure on the part of that officer to discharge the statutory obligation.
In a later judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of D.G, RI vs Amrit Lal Mehta -2007 (220) E.L.T. 9 (S.C.), it was held that there is no vested right in the person to claim reward as per Reward Scheme. Reward, at the highest, can be ex-gratia payment. The Supreme Court also set aside the order of the Madras High Court which had granted interest and cost to the informer.
In another important judgement Union of India v. R.K. Ranganathan – 2009 (242) E.L.T. A85 (S.C.), the Supreme Court held that reward cannot be denied only because the seizure has taken place after the lapse of time so long as there is an nexus between the information and the seizure.
The conclusion is that the preventive departments of the governments who effect the seizures of goods are well protected by the judicial decisions to the extent that the details of the modus operandi are not to be exposed in the Courts and are not also called to question. What is justiceable is that the broad principles laid down by the Government itself are obeyed and no arbitrariness is committed in that respect. No interest can be claimed on reward and mere delay in detection cannot bar the grant of reward. These are all principles of fairness.