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Swapna Prabha Suresh Vs. Superintendent of Customs - (High Court of Kerala) (02 Nov 2020)

Copies of correspondence which are confidential shall not be granted, except under the orders of the Court



Appeal was against impugned order denying issuance of Copies of the statements under Section 108 of Customs Act, 1962 on basis that the statements were produced in sealed cover as directed by the Court and the Special Prosecutor had requested to keep them confidential. Referring to Rule 222 of the Criminal Rules of Practice, learned counsel for the Petitioner submitted , copies of documents produced in Court or in the custody of the Court are bound to be issued, on an application being filed by a party to the proceedings. The issue arising for consideration is regarding the right of an accused, in a case registered by the Customs, to obtain copies of the Section 108 statements from the jurisdictional Court.

As per Section 104 of the Act, an authorised officer can arrest a person, if he has reason to believe such person of having committed offences punishable under Section 132 or Section 133 or Section 135 or Section 135-A or Section 136 of the Act. Section 108(1) of Act confers Gazetted Officers of the Customs Department with the power to summon any person, whose attendance is considered necessary for giving evidence or to produce documents. Going by Sub-section (3) of Section 108 of Act, all persons so summoned shall be bound to attend either in person or by an authorised agent, as such officer may direct; and shall be bound to state the truth upon any subject, with respect to which they are examined or make statements and produce such documents and other things as may be required.

It is not in dispute that, the Section 108 statements were made available for perusal of the Court in a sealed cover. The Prosecutor had also requested to keep the statements confidential. Therefore, the statements cannot be termed as documents produced in or in the custody of the court, copies of which are liable to be issued under Rule 222. Further, as per Rule 225, copies of correspondence or of proceedings which are confidential or are strictly judicial shall not be granted, except under the orders of the court. Hence, discretion is vested with the Court to refuse copies, if the documents or proceedings are confidential or strictly judicial in nature. The learned Magistrate having refused to issue copies of the Section 108 statements finding them to be confidential, present Court finds no reason to interfere with the impugned order. Petition dismissed.


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