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The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by a steamer company engaged in import and export of cargo which had challenged the validity of a circular issued by the Traffic Manager, Kandla Port Trust, and consequent penalty rent levied on storage of cargo beyond the new stipulation.

A Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Sanjiv Khanna in Maheshwary Handling Agency Private Limited V. Board of Trustees Of Kandla Port Trust held, ‘the circular stipulating that storage of goods beyond the period of sixty days would be treated as unauthorised occupation’ ensured uniformity and equal treatment without discretion.

Court observed that the Traffic Manager had authority and discretion for allotment of space for storage on rent and to withdraw allotment of space depending on the availability and to ensure that the port operations were not hindered and obstructed due to congestion and shortage of space. It was thus held that the Traffic Manager was competent to fix time limit for storage.

The appellants had argued that the Port Trust, having monopoly, should have acted in a reasonable manner as no concession was offered for anybody in any circumstance.

Court held that “The circular had brought about uniformity, clarity and transparency in the use of storage facilities at the Kandla Port.” The circular was in conformity and consonance with the initial Notification of escalating charges. It was also reasoned as it stated congestion on Port. Court held “sixty days is sufficient and long and cannot be termed as unreasonable and violating Article 14 of the Constitution.”

— India Legal Bureau

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