Born out of convention and now a feature of every country’s fiscal policy, customs levies and laws have come to occupy a pivotal place in every economy. The importance of customs laws, thus, cannot be over-emphasised; they attempt to regulate allocation of resources within the economy, curb the menace of smuggling and in our case also act as a major source of revenue apart from being a potent tool of our overall economic policy. The customs officer by virtue of his location at the point of entry and exit is uniquely positioned to thwart a wide range of offences, having an impact on the economic and social health of the country. The priorities entrusted to him, however, vary substantially, depending on the level of economic advancement of the country.
In these circumstances, the recognition of the need for a central organisation for gathering details of violations of economic laws in a continuous, organised manner so as to devise a strategy to deal with them and to alert the concerned customs formations was felt as early as 1953. This resulted in the setting up of an organisation called the Central Revenue Intelligence Bureau in 1953. The organisation was charged with the responsibility of developing intelligence on matters connected with anti-smuggling and anti-corruption in the Customs and Central Excise formations all over the country. In retrospect, one Assistant Commissioner and two Superintendents as then provided, was obviously too small a complement of staff. The work done by this small organisation, however, brought into sharp focus the urgent need and necessity for an exclusive organisation to deal with the menace of violation of fiscal laws. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence was thus formed in 1957 as a direct result of this.
The original brief of DRI was extensive. There was no separate organization to deal with either evasion of central excise duties or prevent narcotic drug trafficking. Thus, the charter of DRI, as it stood then, encompassed all aspects of work pertaining to customs, central excise and narcotics, which required control, direction and investigation from the Centre.
With the passage of time and the growth in the problems relating to effective control of violations of such diverse laws, the need for specialisation and expertise was felt. The result was the creation in 1978 of a separate Directorate of Anti-Evasion (now known as Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence) to handle violations of Central Excise laws and creation of the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau in 1985 to co-ordinate activities amongst various enforcement agencies of the Department of Revenue. With the growing incidence of narcotics trafficking and in keeping with India’s commitment to the international community under various conventions to tackle this problem, the Narcotics Control Bureau took shape in 1986, to co-ordinate the enforcement of anti-narcotics laws.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in its present form is a lean organisation charged essentially with the collection of intelligence, its analysis, collation, interpretation and dissemination on matters relating to violations of customs laws, and to a lesser extent, anti-narcotics law. In order to ensure effective discharge of its responsibilities, DRI maintains close liaison with all the important enforcement agencies in India like the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Income-Tax department, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Border Security Force, Central Bureau of Investigation, Coast Guard, the State Police authorities and also with all the Customs and Central Excise Commissionerates. It also maintains close liaison with the World Customs Organisation, Brussels, the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office at Tokyo, INTERPOL and foreign Customs Administrations.
Directorate of Revenue Intelligence functions under the Central Board of Excise and Customs in the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue. Headed by Director General in New Delhi, it is presently divided into seven zones, each under the charge of an Additional Director General, and further sub-divided into Regional Units, Sub-Regional Units and Intelligence Cells with a complement of Additional Directors, Joint Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors, Senior Intelligence Officers and Intelligence Officers.
The land borders of our country, extending to more than 15,000 kms. and a coastline of over 7,000 kms., make the task before DRI very daunting. The progressive economic liberalisation with increasing emphasis on trade facilitation has also led to enormous increase in the misuse of the facilities/concessions resulting in loss of customs duty and foreign exchange. The complexion of economic frauds has changed dramatically. Every enforcement agency in this climate has to tread carefully and strike a fine balance between facilitation - a natural corollary to liberalisation – and enforcement. The events of Sept, 11 and Dec. 13 have also led to changed perception of the role of Customs in the future, with security again emerging as an issue at the forefront. This Directorate has risen to this challenge and would like to believe that it has largely met with success in its mission.