Doctor moves SC over smuggling of substandard Betel-nut in India

A doctor moved to the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court demanding probe into alleged smuggling of betel-nut trade, which according to him is causing huge losses to the tunes of crores to the exchequer.

A division bench of the court, on Thursday, issued notices to principal home secretary, commissioner of Food Safety and Drugs Administration (FDA) in Mumbai, and commissioner of police. The respondents are told to submit replies within four weeks.

Petitioner Dr Mehboob Chimthanwala, through counsel Raspal Singh Renu, claimed that the smuggling of substandard betel nuts, which is unfit for consumption, is underway on the basis of forged documents and in connivance with the respondents. He added that the illegal trade was flourishing while flouting all norms, which is causing massive losses of around Rs15,000 crore to the exchequer.

Citing a media report, published on June 16, petitioner informed that railway police detected 23 wagons of betel nut in Itwari, which was of inferior quality. All the respondents were informed about the seizure, but no action was taken against culprits, that led to their escape.
He contended that the respondents should have taken entire stock into their custody till the testing of the samples was conducted by the approved/prescribed laboratory, as per the laws and waited till the arrival of its report, before granting clean chit to the traders. The fake importers are bringing Indonesian origin products under the garb of SAARC countries.

According to him, the government could have received 113% custom and excise duty over imported products from Indonesia. But, the unscrupulous traders across the country, most of them from Nagpur, brought them through any of SAARC countries on forged documents, to evade it and just pay 13% duty, which is loss of 100% to the exchequer.
The petitioner prayed for directives to respondents to verify authenticity of betel nut importers, exporters, documents submitted by them and laboratory tests reports pertaining to the origin of their products. He also demanded to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to enquire into economical and other offences committed by the smugglers in connivance with the respondents.

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