The Finance Minister assured that the refunds of the exporters will be handled on top priority. However, if the field formations are run as personal fiefdom, there is no scope for any success. More so when you are working in a legally oriented manner i.e. you are citing the responsibilities & obligations of the officials in position & the provisions of the law to be complied with. This does not work because of too many layers of bureaucracy in the set up. The Chief Commissioners do not know what is the ground reality in their own commissionerate therefore they fail to show any courage to question the wrongs or introduce any improvements or punish the culprits withholding the legitimate of the exporters.

In the previous article we talked about issuance of un-utilization certificate in respect of an Advance Authorization, which is a task to be performed at the click of mouse but not being carried out even when the RLA makes the request whereas a simple request from the exporter should suffice. In this article, we talk about Duty Drawback under S 74 when the goods are re-exported (for whatever reason & the duties paid at the time of importation are to be refunded back to the exporter).

The facts of the case are such that under S 74, the exporter is required to file the claim, within three months from the date on which an order permitting clearance and loading of goods for exportation under section 51 is made by proper officer of customs. The claim is be filed in duplicate along with the following documents, namely:

(a) Triplicate copy of the Shipping Bill bearing examination report recorded by the proper officer of the customs at the time of export.

(b) Copy of Bill of Entry or any other prescribed document against which goods were cleared on importation.

(c) Import invoice.

(d) Evidence of payment of duty paid at the time of importation of the goods.

(e) Permission from Reserve Bank of India for re-export of goods, wherever necessary.

(f) Export invoice and packing list.

(g) Copy of Bill of lading or Airway bill.

(h) Any other documents as may be specified in the deficiency memo.

Therefore, the readers will observe that the onus of filing the claim & obtain a dated acknowledgement is on the exporter. As on date, presumably, as per the Prime Minister’s directive (read to collect the fee from the exporter), the claim paper documents are not accepted as such but the exporter is expected to stand in queue & get the complete set of documents to be digitized & at the same time submit the physical copies in original. It appears to me that once this is to be done, then the CBIC/field formations should understand that digital file can be made by the exporter in their office & uploaded/sent by the e mail so that scrutiny can be carried out before the originals are delivered & claim settled. The point is simple because if you have to send a person to Nhava Sheva for any work then the whole day is wasted & nothing else, but submission can only be done. Even if the existing procedure is followed, then too, it should be incumbent on the Customs official to examine the documents & point out the deficiency if any, the same day so that the rectification can be carried out & claim re-submitted in complete compliance of the law. The scrutiny of documents is not a very complicated task as such. If this cannot be done for any reason then the exporter should be informed by e mail, the fate of the application. The point of law is simple that the administration needs to facilitate the exporters & not harass them after the exports stand completed. Why the exporters should chase the Customs officials for getting the legitimate dues when it is their bounden duty to refund them. Even for digitization of the documents, a fee of Rs. 400 is collected, which is way too high & not provided for in the law specifically. The readers will note that every smart phone has a scanner & better copies can be generated through the device & uploaded therefore where is the reason for Rs. 400 to be recovered from the exporter. The other point is that why the Customs officials should adopt digitization to help themselves & not the exporter. Why the exporter is not provided the facility to upload documents from their office & communication by e mails carried out?

The readers will be surprised to note that nothing is done to really facilitate the exporters. The situation at JNCH is so pathetic that they do not give you even a phone number to inquire the fate of the application. I am surprised to be informed that there exists no such phone number on which the Drawback officials can be contacted. Is this not purposeful harassment built into the system? I am also surprised that why & how the relevant Commissioner as well as the Chief Commissioner are not aware of the ground reality & why they are not able to set it right. On the other hand, the mobile numbers are given but the officials do not even pick up their phones. The e mail IDs are not given on the website though it has been upheld in the Chief Commissioner’s Open House meeting at my insistence & follow up that e mail IDs of all the officials (dealing with the users) need to appear on the website as e mail is official communication & as per the Citizen’s Charter, there is obligation to reply. The readers may visit the JNCH website & verify the truth. Earlier, all such issues of illegalities could be taken up in the CC’s Open House & the officials held responsible for appropriate action but then the CC’s Open House is not happening as several illegalities were surfacing in the meetings therefore the way out adopted by the Customs is to stop the CC’s Open House in itself. Neither the CC’s Open house will take place, nor they can e held accountable in terms of the law.

In the instant case, the claim is filed as early as 31.7.19. Now in terms of the law, the Rule 5 (4) of Re-export of Imported Goods (Drawback of Customs Duties) Rules, 1995 very clearly lays down that if Any claim which is incomplete in any material particulars or is without the documents specified in sub-rule (2) shall not be accepted for the purpose of section 75A and such claim shall be returned to the claimant with the deficiency memo in the form prescribed by the Collector of Customs within fifteen days of submission and shall be deemed not to have been filed. The law needs to be strictly implemented because the law is not simply for showcasing. However, till date, there is no deficiency memo issued nor the Drawback credited to the bank account.

Further, it is brought to the attention of the JNCH Customs officials & the CCC, Mumbai-II that as per the CBEC circular issued from F. No. 401/229/2006-Cus.III dtd. 2.7.2007, the status of individual applications of refunds should be made available on the organization’s website & should be updated from time to time to ensure greater transparency & accountability in the discharge of regulatory, enforcement & public dealings. Under these provisions, the details of Drawback refunds under S75 is put up on the website. There cannot be any other interpretation applied to the Drawback refunds under S 74.

What more can be expected from an exporter to get his legitimate claim & why the Customs officials seemed to be least bothered even after bringing the ground reality to the attention of the Chief Commissioner of Customs. Is it that even the CCC cannot ensure that the appropriate action is taken & the exporter informed the status, at the very least?

I am compelled to reiterate that headline grabbing or providing lip service can never resolve any problem. The Finance Minister says that the claims should be settled & the pending claims should be attended on priority then the moot question is that why this claim could not even attended & a reply given to the exporter or this claim is outside the scope of the Finance Minister’s directive? My point is simple that why such directives are needed in the first place, if the customs officials are doing their duty in a transparent manner & updating the information on the website from time to time. The article is put in mailboxes of all concerned & if anyone finds anything wrong then let me know & I Will respond.

(Above are personal view of Author and he can be reached at rajiv.pec@gmail.com. Taxguru.in do not subscribe to the views of Author)

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