SC asks Centre to file reply within 2 weeks to PIL seeking CBI probe into 'iron ore smuggling'

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New Delhi [India], August 26 (ANI): The Supreme Court of India on Thursday asked the Centre to file its counter reply within two weeks to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma seeking a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register an FIR and probe the alleged duty evasion by the companies in allegedly 'smuggling' iron ore to China since 2015.

A bench of the apex court, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana and comprising of Justice Surya Kant asked the Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, senior law officer for the Government of India, to file his counter reply in the case.

"Have you (the SG, Mehta) filed your counter?", CJI Ramana asked the SG, to which, the SG replied, "No, we have not filed it".

The CJI said that "If it (the allegations levelled by the petitioner, Sharma) is true then it is a serious matter, which we need to look into."

The SG told the Supreme Court that the reply will be filed in a formal manner and sought two weeks time for the same.

The CJI allowed the prayer of SG Mehta and fixed the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

During the course of the hearing, the Supreme Court asked the petitioner Sharma, "you please file a comprehensive writ petition. Make necessary parties and amend your prayer and necessary parties. We can't allow any application for the impleadment, until we don't hear from the Government of India".

"We cannot proceed without their reply," CJI Ramana said.

Justice Surya Kant asked the petitioner-cum-lawyer, Sharma, "you have to show how much tax evasion was there? Please make specific averments and not implead 65 parties."

Sharma, in his petition, filed before the Supreme Court, sought its direction that the companies concerned be prosecuted for allegedly evading export duty by declaring wrong tariff code to export the iron ore under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992.

Sharma alleged that iron ore "smuggling to China" has been taking place as these companies have been exporting without paying 30 per cent export duty.

He thereby sought a court-monitored and time-bound CBI probe against the companies.

The PIL filed by Sharma claimed that the ministries of commerce and finance should control and regulate the export policies and decide as to under which Harmonized System Codes each good will be exported.

The PIL alleged that there is a violation of the Customs Act, Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 (COFEPOSA), Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act and certain penal provisions relating to cheating and forgery. (ANI)

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