Economy

‘Judicial magistrates should not embroil themselves in executive work’

S. Murlidharan | Updated on March 17, 2013

When the customs law contemplates certification of inventory of seized goods by a magistrate, the reference is to an executive magistrate and not to a judicial magistrate, given the fact that there is no sifting of evidence at this stage as well as the possible embarrassment of the judicial magistrate having to adjudicate upon his own certification.

The Delhi High Court in Directorate of Revenue Intelligence v. State was seized of a matter involving seizure of red sanders wood, a rare item prohibited for exports. The Directorate of Revenue intelligence called upon the metropolitan magistrate to visit the premises where the seized goods were kept for the purpose of certifying the same. The metropolitan magistrate, being a judicial officer, made no secret of his reluctance and asked the DRI to take an order from the Delhi High Court.

The High Court empathized with the metropolitan magistrate’s reluctance and embarrassment and said that what the law contemplated was certification by an executive magistrate whose job was merely to state the facts without having to sift evidence. There are senior officers of high courts for example who enjoy magisterial powers for attestation etc but who do not sit on judgment on any matter.

The job of certification must be entrusted to executive magistrates so that not only are the judicial magistrates not exposed to the potential embarrassment of conflict of interest but also spared of purely administrative duties which would cut into precious judicial time.

(The author is a New Delhi-based chartered accountant)

Published on March 17, 2013

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