Allow held-up onion shipment to be exported: Bombay high court to customs
The order came after Horticulture Produce Exporters Association filed a petition challenging the “abrupt ban” imposed by the Central government on the export of onionsUpdated: Oct 20, 2020, 16:38 IST
The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the customs authorities in Mumbai to allow a consignment of onions—about 108 containers—which was held up after the Central government banned the export of the commodity on September 14, to be exported.
The bench of justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Abhay Ahuja directed customs authorities to allow the export of onions for which shipping bills had been generated prior to 10.28pm on September 14—when the notification of the ban was uploaded on the e-gazette portal.
The order came after Horticulture Produce Exporters Association filed a petition challenging the “abrupt ban” imposed by the Central government on the export of onions.
In the petition, filed through advocate Sujay Kantawala, the association contended that the sudden ban was contrary to the Central government’s Export Policy 2015-2010, and its ‘Ease of Doing Business’ promise clearly stopped the authorities from arbitrarily interfering with the freedom to peacefully export goods.
The petition added that Section 51 of the Customs Act, 1962 mandates customs officers to clear goods for export if satisfied that the items are not prohibited. The customs officers, however, acted arbitrarily on September 14, and refused to process Let Export Orders (LEOs) even before the notification was issued, stated the petition.
The counsel for the petitioner association, senior advocate Darius Shroff, had pointed out that the notification was released in the evening of September 14, but the customs officers refused to process LEOs from the morning of September 14, even when the consignments were brought to the parking plaza outside the customs area.
The high court found merit in the arguments advanced on behalf of the petitioner body. It observed that the generation of shipping bill is not an empty formality. “It has a definite meaning assigned to it under the 2019 Regulations. It sets in motion the process of export of goods. The 2019 Regulations only reinforce the sanctity attached to a shipping bills,” said the bench.
The judges also took note of a clarification issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Customs, declaring that wherever procedural or policy provisions are modified to the disadvantage of exporters, they shall not be applicable to consignments already handed over to the customs for export till the time the change is notified and published.
The high court has admitted the petition for considering the challenge to the ban on export of onions and posted the petition for final hearing in the first week of December 2020.