Six customs officers, including former Patna commissioner Ajay Dixit, were awarded three months of simple imprisonment on Thursday for contempt of court in a betel nut seizure case.
The high court directed the officers to surrender before the lower court concerned within a month. It also slapped a fine of Rs 2,000 on each officer.
The bench of Justice S.N. Hussain issued the order on a couple of contempt petitions filed by Birendra Kumar Singh and Jhantu Das.
The petitioners claimed that the customs officers went ahead with confiscation proceedings in the case despite the high court quashing the seizure earlier.
Justice Hussain asked the registrar-general of the high court to communicate the matter to the senior superintendent of police, Patna, immediately for ensuring compliance of the order.
While pronouncing the order, the court also referred the matter to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), New Delhi, for carrying out investigations from vigilance angle and from the point of view of corruption.
“The court held six customs officers, including Dixit (now posted in Lucknow), guilty of contempt of court order. These officers would undergo simple imprisonment for three months. A fine of Rs 2,000 has been imposed on each one of them,” Prabhat Ranjan Dwivedi, the counsel of the petitioners, told The Telegraph just after the punishment was pronounced.
Giving background of the case, Dwivedi said the matter was related to the seizure of betel nuts worth Rs 30 lakh in Kishanganj in June and November 2010. Aggrieved at the customs officers after the confiscation, the petitioners — Birendra and Jhantu — approached the high court. The court declared that the seizure was “illegal” in both the cases and directed the customs officers to return the goods to the petitioners immediately.
“Instead of complying with the order, the customs officers started confiscation proceedings without realising that it can’t be done after the court quashed the seizure,” Dwivedi said, adding that the retention of betel nuts without any stay order was unjustified.
Soon after the confiscation proceedings were initiated, the petitioners again approached the high court with a contempt petition stating that the customs officers were violating the court’s order