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Stop at Customs, or stay in prison

mumbai Updated: Mar 18, 2012 01:17 IST
Manish Pachouly
Manish Pachouly
Hindustan Times

If you are carrying gold, jewellery or electronics worth more than Rs 5 lakh and fail to declare it at Customs, you could end up in jail without bail, according to an amendment in the Customs Act proposed in the union budget on Friday.

Aimed at targeting career smugglers, the amendment makes non-bailable all smuggling offences punishable by three years or more in prison.

This has implications for the average flier - in other words, you - because anyone who tries to sneak in goods worth more than Rs 5 lakh without paying duty can be booked under the Act and denied bail at the discretion of the magistrate hearing the case.

The amendment will now be debated in Parliament and must be passed there before it is included in the Act. It is expected to come into effect in May.

Commissioner of Customs (Mumbai airport) PM Saleem welcomed the amendment.

"Economic offences severely affect the country," he said.

Advocate Sujay Kantawala, however, pointed out that the amendment mandates a trial-type hearing in all such cases. "This could cause problems for non-smugglers," he said.

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