Twelve years ago, Customs officials used a unique method to counter smuggling of foreign currency — weighing wads of currency notes instead of counting them.
Shocked at this absurd practice, the Delhi High court acquitted a man who was accused of carrying $11,000 without declaring it to the Customs in 1998.
Luke Antony Kocherry, a resident of Kerala, was arrested at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi minutes before boarding his flight to Russia. He was charged with illegal possession of foreign currency.
Kocherry said, "I have been travelling from Kerala to Delhi for last 12 years to appear before the court in a false case."
"On the day of the incident, I had gone to the Customs officials to fill up the foreign currency declaration form before boarding my flight. However, they arrested me for carrying foreign currency,” Kocherry added.
"The Customs officials simply weighed the notes and claimed it to be illegal possession of foreign currency. They have been making a mockery of the judicial system for the past 12 years," Rajeev Dawar, counsel for Kocherry, said.
Justice Hima Kohli said the court was surprised at the investigation procedure in which one of the officers took the notes for weighing.
The court also found holes in the Customs department’s investigations, as one of their senior officers in her statement said she “was not aware of the fact that the officer had taken the currency from the departure hall for the purpose of weighing”.
Dawar said the trial court acquitted Kocherry, as it saw major voids in the Customs department’s theory.
The counsel for Customs told the court that Kocherry gave his consent in writing by stating that any Customs official can conduct a search.
The counsel for the Customs said the officials recovered $11,000 besides R6,500. But Kocherry could not produce any document showing legal possession of the notes.
However, the court said Kocherry had been consistent in his statement. The judge also said there were grave errors in Customs officials’ approach as their own key witness never deposed in the case.