New Delhi, Feb 14 (UNI) A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court today doubted the correctness of a three-judge bench judgement and referred the issue which has come up in a 35-year-old incident to a five-judge Constitutional bench.
On February 5, 1972 a vessel owned by a foreign company by the name American President Lines Ltd arrived at port of Bombay carrying seven cartons of ball-bearings belonging to a consignee M/S Metal Fabs India Ltd.
The ship remained uncleared for two months. The custom authorities demanded demurrages to the tune of Rs 4,752 from the steamer agent namely Forbes Forbes Campbell and company Ltd.
The demand notice was challenged in the court.
A three-judge bench in the case of trustees of the port of Madaras vs KPV Sheikh Mohd Rowther and Company had held that demurrage charges have to be collected by the port trust only from the consignee and not from the steamer agent.
A bench comprising Justices H K Sema and Markandey Katju in their judgement noted, ''After reading the aforesaid judgement, we doubted the correctness of the said judgement and we are unable to persuade ourselves to accept the ratio laid down in the aforesaid judgement of this court.
''Since we have doubted the correctness of the decision renderred by a three-judge bench of this court in the case of trustees of the port of Madaras through its Chairman (supra) and in view of the questions of law of public importance as framed above, involved in this appeal, this appeal may be referred to a larger bench for an authoritative decision. Let the matter be placed before the Chief Justice of India for appropriate orders.'' The bench also said in view of the small amount involved the court was initially inclined to dismiss the appeal with a question of law left open. However, the court changed its mind having regard to the questions of law of public importance involved in this appeal, which are of a recurring nature, the matter needs to be considered in depth.
UNI AKS/SC DS BD1740