Deep malaise in India’s customs clearance system must be investigated

India’s Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) – which was established as an independent forum to hear appeals against orders passed by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise – has asked customs officials to investigate what they describe as a systems failure which leads to misdeclaration of goods and evasion of customs duty.

The tribunal found “deep malaise in the system of examination and clearance of the cargo” that involved clearing agents and customs officers who cleared shipments of imported mobile point of sales terminals even though these goods were blatantly mis-declared on import documents. 

Suspect imports

Customs officers seized the goods when they were imported because they suspected the documents misrepresented the goods actually being brought into the country.

The documents described the mobile point of sale terminals as paper products on which duty and tariff rates are much lower.

Revisit operating procedures

“The consignment [was] cleared in spite of the huge misdeclaration with regard to its description, classification as well as the value of imported items,” the tribunal said.

“This indicates that there exists a deep malaise in the system of examination and clearance of the cargo,” it added.

The tribunal has also advised the Chief Commissioner of Customs to  revisit standard operating procedures to ensure that systems are in place that prevent imported goods bypassing due examination.



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