Mumbai: The central government recently revised the guidelines for the arrest and bail in relation to the offences punishable under the Customs Act, 1962. In the revised guidelines, the government has clarified that arrests in respect of an offence, should be effected only in exceptional situations which may include, cases involving unauthorised importation in baggage / cases under Transfer of Residence Rules, where the market value of the goods involved is Rs 50 lakh or more and cases of outright smuggling of high value goods such as precious metal, restricted items or prohibited items or goods notified under section the Customs Act, or offence involving foreign currency where the value of offending goods is Rs 50 lakh or more.
According to the circular – a copy of which is with the Free Press Journal – issued on Tuesday by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs, the arrest would also effect in cases related to importation of trade goods (i.e. appraising cases) involving willful mis-declaration in description of goods / concealment of goods / goods covered under the Customs Act, 1962 with a view to import restricted or prohibited items and where the market value of the offending goods is Rs 2 crore or more; cases involving fraudulent evasion or attempt at evasion of duty involving Rs 2 crore or more, cases involving fraudulent availment of drawback or attempt to avail of drawback or any exemption from duty provided under the Customs Act, in connection with the export of goods, if the amount of drawback or exemption from duty is Rs 2 crore or more.
The arrest would also effect in cases related to exportation of trade goods (i.e. appraising cases) involving willful mis-declaration in value / description, concealment of restricted goods or goods notified under section Customs Act, where market value of the offending goods is Rs 2 crore or more and cases involving obtaining an instrument from any authority by fraud, collusion, willful misstatement or suppression of facts and utilisation of such instrument where the duty relatable to such utilisation of the instrument is Rs 2 crore or more, the circular stated.
“The said criteria of value mentioned would not apply in cases involving offences relating to items such as Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN), arms, ammunition and explosives, antiques, art treasures, wildlife items and endangered species of flora and fauna. In such cases, arrest, if required, on the basis of facts and circumstances of the case, may be considered irrespective of the value of offending goods involved,” the circular stated.
According to a Customs official, initially the offenders used to get arrested for smuggling of goods having a value of Rs 5 lakh, which was later amended to Rs 25 lakh. “The values are increased so that there is no blatant misuse of arrest. However, this may also mean that more cases of smuggling might take place, since the offenders would just have to pay a fine or penalty if they get caught and would not be arrested if the value of goods is less than Rs 50 lakh,” the official said.