FTO Tells Customs to Stop Harassing Suspected Vehicles

Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has recommended the Directorate General of l&l (Customs) issue a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the interception of suspected vehicles to control the incidents of harassment by Customs field staff.

The complaint was filed with the FTO against the Deputy Superintendent and other officials, Directorate of l&l-Customs, Lahore, in terms of section 10(1) of the Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000 (FTO Ordinance), for initiation of Departmental legal proceedings for abuse of power, illegal harassment, demanding gratification/bribe from the Complainant.

According to an order of the FTO issued against the DG l&l (Customs) on Thursday, the FBR is to direct the Director General, Directorate General of l&l (Customs) to conduct a fact-finding inquiry into the incident regarding misbehavior and attitude of official viz Rai Waqar Ahmed and others; demands of bribe from the Complainant and damage to vehicle, initiate necessary disciplinary proceedings against those found guilty.

The FBR should issue a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the interception of suspected vehicles duly taking into account, inter alia, the sanctity of families and ordinary citizens to curb the incidents of harassment by Customs field staff.

The FBR should also direct all Regional Directors, Intelligence & Investigations — Customs to personally conduct training sessions for the field staff to inculcate more professional, sympathetic, and objective behavior in the Customs field staff and report compliance within 45 days.

It is evident that Complainant’s vehicle was detained u/s 2(kk), read with Section 186 & 187 of the Customs Act, 1969 for want of verification from the forensic lab, and the vehicle was released to the actual owner i.e. Muhammad Shahbaz Choudhry on receipt of verification report.

The DR contended that all was done in good faith as per law. The Complainant’s contention regarding damage caused to his vehicle needs to be investigated. There was no need to behave in such a manner with the family members, to offload them on the roadside. This kind of treatment cannot be meted out to people on the basis of suspicion only. They were not criminals but ordinary citizens who have the right to be treated with courtesy and consideration. The staff could have escorted the vehicle to the airport/home and then taken control of the vehicle.

This behavior on the part of the staff was oppressive and uncalled for and amounts to maladministration. The demands of bribes also need to be investigated, the FTO order added.

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