CUSTOMS DUTY LIABILITY OF CUSTOMS BROKERS - SECTION 147 - An analysis
The Revenue authorities had under taken some investigation as to evasion of customs duty on goods imported by various importers. On conclusion of the investigation, Show Cause Notice was issued to such importers for the demand of custom duties with interest and imposition of penalties.
Show cause notice was also issued to customs Broker of such imports demanding the customs duties and imposition of penalties on the ground that Customs Broker had not ensured that of the documents submitted by them on behalf of importers was in accordance with the existing provisions and handled documents without verifying the antecedents of the importer. Is Revenue decision of duty demand and penalty from customs broker is tenable ?
No. There are no provisions in Customs Act, 1962 that demand of customs duty needs to be discharged by any other person than importers.
The issue, as to, can a duty liability be fastened on the Customs Broker is well settled by the division bench of the Tribunal in the case of DEVSHI BHANJI KHONA VERSUS COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS, COCHIN, CESTAT, BANGALROE decided on 05.12.2008 where it was held that the duties of the Customs Broker ended the moment the goods were cleared from the customs area.
Customs Broker and his responsibility is to a limited purpose of arranging release of the goods, and once the goods are cleared he has no further function. The reference to the Agent under Section 147 is to the Agent of the Principal i.e. Power of Attorney holder of the importer and where the relationship of Master and Servant come into play and in such cases the act of an Customs Broker is held to be an act of the Principal. While Customs Brokers are acting under a separate Regulations and his function under the licence is only to present papers for clearance of imported goods under Bill of Entry and not to act an agent as contemplated under Section 147 of the Act.
HH HINGORANI VERSUS C.C. AHMEDABAD, CESTAT AHMEDABAD decided on 12.01.2017
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