Latest Blogs from SBS and Company LLP

    Foreign Trade Policy Vs Customs Law – A Case Study

    We all know that Foreign Trade Policy (for brevity ‘FTP’) is laid down with an intention to encourage the exports and regulate the imports. Apart from such administration of the export and import of goods and services, it also formulates various export incentive schemes to encourage the exports and make India’s presence visible in global trade.

    The export incentive schemes or exemptions from import duties will generally come with the conditions to be fulfilled for enjoying such incentives or exemptions. Such conditions might be laid down both by the FTP and the relevant statutes as detailed in the following example.

    An importer is exempted from the customs duty on import of raw material on a condition that the finished goods manufactured by using such free imported material are exported within a stipulated time. Here, such exemption from import duty might come with conditions to be satisfied in both FTP or Customs law or any one of them.

    The point of consideration is in this article is ‘whether satisfaction of conditions laid down by the FTP would absolve the assessee from satisfying the conditions laid down in the Customs law to avail the benefits of the scheme’? In other words, does a customs authority can deny the exemption from the import duty under Customs Law since the assessee has failed to satisfy the conditions laid down in such exemption notification despite of the fact that he has satisfied the conditions laid out in the FTP.

    In order to answer such a question, we should touch upon certain basic concepts in the FTP. It is a much known fact that FTP can only formulate the schemes, however the said policy cannot issue exemption notification in relevant statutes like Customs law (as in the above example). That is to say the scheme should be complimented with an exemption notification in the relevant statute separately to avail such benefit laid down by the schemes.

    So, from the above, it is evident that FTP can only formulate the schemes but cannot issue exemption notifications in the relevant statutes and the responsibility to lay down such exemption notification rests with Department of Revenue. Now, let us proceed to answer the question raised in the article by taking

    1

    the ratio of recent Supreme Court judgment in the case of Pennar Industries Limited (for brevity ‘Pennar’/’Assessee’).

    In the Pennar case, they have imported hot rolled non-alloy steel wide coils against advance license issued under the Duty Exemption Entitlement Scheme (for brevity ‘DEES’). At the time of importation, Pennar has not paid customs duty in light of the exemption under Notification No 30/1997 – Cus, dated 01.04. 1997 which provides exemption to the actual users from the customs duty at the time of import subject to a condition of export of finished goods manufactured using such free imported material.

    12015-TIOL-162-CUS-SC

     

    Pennar has manufactured the finished goods using such duty free raw material but could not export since the quality of the finished goods was not fit for exports. Hence, they have not exported the said finished goods and cleared such goods for home consumption. When the Director General of Foreign Trade (for brevity ‘DGFT’) has raised query pertaining to the fulfillment of export obligations, Pennar has represented that the said quantity cannot be exported and requested to change the product to be exported and also allow the export obligation to be fulfilled even the said exports was done through supporting exporters (exports made by arranging with other manufacturers or traders to meet export obligation). DGFT has accepted the submissions of Pennar and change the product to be exported and allowed support exports to be deemed as exports done by Pennar. The assessee has met the export obligations vide such permission given by DGFT and was under an impression that the export obligation has been discharged as per the DEES.

    However, the customs authorities has demanded the customs duty which is not paid since the assessee has failed to comply with the conditions of Notification No 30/1997-Cus dated 01.04. 1997. The grounds of customs authorities were that, the said Notification does not allow any other material to be exported and the actual user of the raw material has to export the finished goods. Both the conditions have not been met by Pennar since the goods exported are not the one which is specified in the Notification and the exports were not actually made by the actual user of the subject imported material since they have been made by support exporters. Since, the conditions have been violated a notice demanding the customs duty on the imported raw material was issued. The assessee has stated that since the DGFT has accepted the exports made by the other persons as exports of the assessee, there cannot be any demand under customs. The supporting exports or 3rd party exports is an accepted concept under DGFT but not under customs especially when the exemption notification specifies that the actual user of raw material has to export and the adjudicating authority has confirmed the demand.

    Pennar has approached the tribunal wherein it was held that when DGFT has amended the license to accommodate the products to be exported and support exports, the same amounts to fulfillment of export obligations as per license and hence there cannot be any demand of customs duty and brushed away the order of the adjudicating authority. The authorities have gone for appeal against such order of Tribunal before the Honorable Supreme Court.

    The Honorable Supreme court after due considerations made by both the parties has held that when the conditions specified in Notification No 30/1997-Cus has not met, there cannot be any exemption despite of the fact DGFT has amended the terms on which the license is issued. The apex court after taking the ratio laid by the coordinate bench (of apex court) in the case of Sheshank Sea Foods Private Limited vs Union of India & Ors wherein it was held that there is nothing in EXIM policy which prohibits the power of customs to investigate into the matters even the subject belongs of EXIM policy. By adopting such ratio, the apex court has held that the assessee is required to pay customs duty since it has failed to satisfy the conditions laid down vide the Notification No 30/1997-Cus despite of the fact that the assessee has fulfilled the modified conditions given by DGFT.

    From the above judgment, it is clear that despite the conditions laid down vide the license has been satisfied, the conditions enshrined in the Customs exemption notification has also to be satisfied. However, the apex court when delivering the above judgment has recommended the Central Government to make necessary amendments to overcome such situations where DGFT has relaxed the conditions, the supporting notification in the statutes should also envisage the same and cannot be in contradiction as after all such notifications under Customs Law are issue to implement and to give effect to the benefits under the foreign trade policy. Hope the DGFT/Department of Revenue comes with necessary amendments to meet the eventualities to avoid unnecessary hardships for bonafide assessees.

    Subscribe SBS AND COMPANY LLP updates via Email!