Introduction: Regin Exports filed an appeal against the rejection of their request for the amendment of shipping bills by the authorities below. The appellant, engaged in processing imported Raw Cashew Nuts for export, inadvertently selected the code for free shipping bills instead of the DFIA License scheme. The Customs authorities rejected the request, stating that it was beyond the prescribed time limit and that the goods were not examined during export.
Analysis: The appellant argued that there is no specified time limit under Section 149 of the Customs Act to deny the amendment request as time-barred. Moreover, the section does not impose the condition that amendment can only be allowed if goods are examined. Citing precedents, the appellant highlighted that the absence of examination is not a sufficient ground for denial of the amendment request.
Conclusion: The CESTAT Chennai agreed with the appellant’s arguments and set aside the impugned order, allowing the amendment of shipping bills. The rejection based on the lack of examination as free shipping bills was considered insufficient, and the request was granted. The decision provides relief to Regin Exports, enabling them to amend their shipping bills as required.
FULL TEXT OF THE CESTAT CHENNAI ORDER
These appeals are filed against the order passed by the authorities below rejecting the request for amendment of shipping bills.
2. Brief facts are that the appellant is engaged in processing of imported Raw Cashew Nuts and exporting the resultant Cashew Kernels to various countries by availing export benefit schemes. The appellant exported Cashew Kernels vide different shipping bills. They made two applications for Duty Free Import Authorization (DFIA) Licence with the Joint Director General of Foreign Trade, Madurai for import of 1000 MT and 500 MT of Raw Cashew Nuts and these two applications were allotted with different file numbers. While filing the shipping bills, the appellant had declared in the shipping bill that the consignment is under DFIA. It was mentioned as “This shipment under DFIA, DGFT MDU File No… dated 15.03.2018”. However, inadvertently, the appellant had selected the code for free shipping bills instead of DFIA License scheme. The error went unnoticed by the appellant as the shipping bills prominently displayed the DFIA file number allotted by the DGFT. The issue was brought to the notice of the appellant only when the JDFT took up the application for processing of DFIA license upon completion of exports. Thereafter on 26.12.2018, the appellant filed application to amend the shipping bill so as to indicate as DFIA scheme as against ‘Free Shipping Bill”. In fact, the appellant though had mentioned the DFIA scheme on the shipping bills had erroneously mentioned the code for ‘free shipping bills’. The said request for amendment was rejected by the adjudicating authority holding that the request for amendment has been made beyond the period of three months as stipulated in Board’s Circular No.36/2010 dt. 23.09.2010. It was also alleged that amendment cannot be allowed as the goods were not examined being free shipping bills. Against such order, the appellant filed appeal before the Commissioner (Appeals) who upheld the same. Hence this appeal.
3. Ld. Consultant Sri S. Adithya appeared and argued for the appellant. It is submitted by the Ld. Consultant that while filing the shipping bills for export, it was clearly mentioned in the shipping bills as “This shipment is under DFIA DGFT MDU File No…… 15.03.2018”. However, while selecting the code, the code “00” indicating free shipping bill was selected inadvertently instead of code “26” which is for DFIA License scheme. Only upon finding out that the shipping bills were not transmitted to the DGFT portal, the appellant realized the error committed by them. The appellant vide their multiple letters to the department requested for amendment of shipping bills under Section 149 of Customs Act, 1962. The same was rejected on the ground that the request for conversion is made beyond the period of three months after the Let Export Order and also for the reason that there was no occasion to examine as the shipping bills were filed as ‘free shipping bills’.
4. Ld. Consultant adverted to provisions of Section 149 of the Customs Act, 1962 and submitted that there is no time limit specified under the said section to deny the request for amendment of shipping bill as time-barred. So also, the said section does not impose any condition that amendment can be allowed only if goods are examined. The decision in the case of N.C. John & Sons Pvt. Ltd. Vs CC Cochin – 2020 (371) ELT 543 (Tri.-Bang.) was relied by the Ld. Consultant to submit that in said case the request for amendment of shipping bill was rejected by the department for the reason that it is time barred and also that the goods were not subjected to examination before export. The Tribunal allowed the request for amendment of the shipping bill. Against such order, the department filed appeal before the Hon’ble High Court. The High Court of Kerala vide judgment reported in 2020 (374) ELT 465 (Ker.) upheld the decision of the Tribunal. The department filed appeal before the Hon’ble Apex Court and vide judgment reported in 2022 (380) ELT 241 (SC) the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala was affirmed by the Apex Court.
5. The decision of the Tribunal in the case of Autotech Industries (India) Pvt. Ltd. Vs CC Chennai-IV – 2022 (380) ELT 364 (Tri.- Chennai) and the decision in the case of Carboline India Pvt. Ltd. Vs CC Chennai-IV – 2022 (381) ELT 397 (Tri.– Chennai) were also relied by the Ld. Counsel for appellant. It is prayed that the appeals may be allowed.
6. Ld. A.R Sri R. Rajaraman appeared for the Department and supported the findings in the impugned order.
7. Heard both sides.
8. The issue is with regard to rejection of the request for amendment of the shipping bills. It is brought out from the facts that the appellant had inadvertently mentioned the code for free shipping bills instead of code for DFIA shipping bill. It is seen from the records that the appellant had mentioned in the shipping bills that these are filed under DFIA License scheme. However, while selecting the code, they had inadvertently mentioned the code for ‘free shipping bills’.
9. The department has rejected the request for amendment of shipping bill on the ground that the goods were not examined at the time of export. It is not disputed that the goods have been exported. So also, the documents existing at the time of export are produced. In such circumstances, the department cannot deny the request for conversion of shipping bills holding that the goods were not examined as being filed as free shipping bills. Section 149 of the Customs Act does not stipulate such condition. The second ground for rejection is that it is beyond 3 months as stipulated in Board circular. Section 149 of Customs Act does not stipulate any time. The grounds have been considered by the Tribunal in the case of N.C. John & Sons Pvt. Ltd. (supra) and the Tribunal had held that the amendment of shipping bill has to be allowed. The said decision has been affirmed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Tribunal in the case of Autotech Industries (India) Pvt. Ltd. (supra) as well as Carboline India Pvt. Ltd. (supra) considered the very same issue and held that the request for amendment cannot be rejected.
10. After appreciating the facts and applying the principle laid down in the above decisions, we are of the considered view that the request for conversion of shipping bills cannot be denied. The impugned order is set aside. Appeals are allowed with consequential relief, if any.
(Pronounced in court on 21.07.2023)