A Sri Lankan court earlier this week concurred with a Customs decision to detain a shipment of palm oil imported by Sena Mills Refineries Pvt Ltd pending a full investigation on suspicion that the consignment contained adulterated palm oil. Issuing a ruling on an appeal by the importer (Sena Mills) against the Customs decision, the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Appeal Court holds with Customs on adulterated palm oil issue

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A Sri Lankan court earlier this week concurred with a Customs decision to detain a shipment of palm oil imported by Sena Mills Refineries Pvt Ltd pending a full investigation on suspicion that the consignment contained adulterated palm oil.

Issuing a ruling on an appeal by the importer (Sena Mills) against the Customs decision, the Appeal Court in a February 6 ruling said that “… the Court could draw that the actions taken by the Customs to detain the three suspicious consignments in order to deal with it according to law, is well within the law as the substance the petitioner has imported could reasonably be suspected to be adulterated palm oil”.

The court agreed that if the said substance is conclusively found to be adulterated palm oil then such an importation would contravene the provisions in the applicable laws and regulations.

In this case, Sena Mills as the petitioner submitted to court that the detention of the palm oil consignments imported by them is illegal and to release them, as they have fulfilled all the conditions imposed by the Customs and the delay in releasing them would cause considerable loss to them.

The 2-judge bench of Justices Vijith K. Malalgoda and P. Padman Surasena decided that the law demands that any goods imported or brought into Sri Lanka contravening prohibitions and restrictions enumerated in the Customs Ordinance be destroyed or disposed of as Director General of Customs may direct.

The court concluded that under these circumstances it cannot prohibit or restrain the Customs from carrying out any further inquiry into the importation of the aforesaid consignments. Similarly, this court also cannot order the release of the said questionable consignments which is the subject matter of the aforesaid inquiry. The application by the petitioner was thus refused and dismissed with costs.

In addition to Customs, the Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka appeared in this case as an affected intervenient party.

The Customs informed Court that their position is that the substance contained in these consignments cannot be released as they are most likely to be injurious to the health of the consumers. The court observed that it is not open for anyone to import any item that falls under the definition of ‘food’ in the Act, if that item is unfit for consumption or is adulterated.

Romesh de Silva, PC with Surein de Silva appeared for the petitioner. Milinda Gunatileke, Deputy Solicitor General with Suranga Wimalasena, Senior State Counsel appeared for the Customs – 1st and 2nd Respondents.

Senany Dayaratne with Duleeka Imbuldeniya appeared for the intervenient respondent, the Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka.

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