Customs Act, 1962, envisages that only places notified by the Government shall be Customs ports or Customs airports for the unloading of imported goods and loading of export goods. At each such customs ports, the Commissioner of Customs is empowered to approve proper places for the unloading and loading of goods and he also specifies the limits of any Customs area. The law further provides that the person in charge of the vessel or an aircraft shall not call or land at any place other than the Customs port/airport, except in cases of emergencies.
Section 37 empowers the proper officer to board any conveyance carrying imported goods or export goods. He may remain on board as long as he decides to remain. The proper officer may question the person in charge of the vessel or aircraft. He may demand production of documents and also ask questions, to be answered by such person. The person in charge of the conveyance is bound to comply with these requirements [Section 38].
The Master / Agent of the vessel or an aircraft has to deliver an import manifest (an import report in case of a vehicle), within 24 hours after arrival in the case of a vessel and 12 hours after arrival in the case of an aircraft or a vehicle in the prescribed form. The time limit for filing the manifest is extendable on showing sufficient cause. In the case of a vessel or an aircraft, a manifest may also be filed even before arrival of the vessel or aircraft (known as Prior Entry Manifest). In the case of vessels, for administrative convenience, such advance manifests are accepted on any day within 14 days before the expected arrival of the vessel.
If the vessel does not arrive within the stipulated time of 14 days or such extended time as may be granted by the Assistant Commissioner (Imports), the manifest accepted provisionally is cancelled and the fact circulated through public notices. All the Bills of Entry filed against the cancelled manifest, become void. The importers have to return those Bills of Entry to the Import Department and to claim refund of duty, if paid on any such Bills of Entry. If the same vessel enters the port after the cancellation of the original manifests, it will be treated as a fresh entry and a fresh manifest is insisted upon
If for any reason, the carrier desires to amend or supplement the IGM, it will be permitted by the proper officer on payment of prescribed fees, if he is satisfied that there is no fraudulent intention behind the move. [Section 30(3)].
Any mis-declaration in this document will attract the penal provisions of Section 111(f) and Section 112.
(a) Excision from IGMs of items originally manifested:
(a)Excision from I.G.Ms of items originally manifested are permitted only:
(i)On application in writing from the ship’s Agents;
(ii)On production of the documentary evidence of short shipment of goods;
(iii)On payment of a fee as prescribed.
(b)(i)Excisions or amendments of items in the Import Manifest involving reduction in number of Packages:
An application from the steamer agents for excisions or amendments in the Import Manifest involving reduction in the number of packages or quantity or weight thereof, should be submitted with the connected documentary evidence. Such excisions or amendments will only be allowed; if after due investigation, it is proved that the excess quantity was originally shown in the import manifest as a result of an error. In the absence of such proof, the application will be kept over for being dealt with by the Manifest Clearance Section at the time of closure of the ship’s file.
(ii)Applications for the excision or amendments of items for which Bills of Entry have been noted will be dealt with by the Manifest Clearance Section if made two months after the arrival of the vessel.
Matters such as the number of copies of manifests to be filed, nature of forms, manner of declaring cargo etc. are governed by the following Regulations:
(i)Import Report (Form) Regulation, 1976;
(ii)Import Manifest (Aircraft) Regulation, 1976; and
(iii)Import Manifest (Vessels) Regulation, 1971;
Generally speaking, the above Regulations stipulate declaring separately cargo to be landed, unaccompanied Baggage, goods to be transported and same bottom or retention cargo. Separate declarations are also to be filed in respect of dangerous/prohibited/ sensitive goods such as Arms and Ammunitions, Narcotics, Gold etc. The prime condition in the Regulations is that the manifest shall cover all the goods carried in the conveyance.
In respect of a vessel, an import manifest shall, in addition, consist of an application for entry inwards.
The Master of the vessel is not to permit the unloading of any imported goods until an order has been given by the proper officer granting Entry Inwards of such vessel. Normally, Entry Inwards is granted only after the import manifest has been delivered. This entry inward date is crucial for determining the rate of duty, as provided in section 15 of the Customs Act, 1962. Unloading of certain items like accompanied baggage, mail bags, animals, perishables and hazardous goods are exempted from this stipulation.
The amendment made in 1995 (w.e.f. 1-7-1995) introduces a new form for obtaining entry inwards. The forms are designed according to IMO-FAL Convention. The forms have to be filed in prescribed sizes only. Host of enclosures are sought along with these forms. This practice has its origin in other statutes such as Merchant Shipping Act, 1880. However, keeping the said convention in view, Board has issued instructions dispensing with submission of various documents. The following declarations have, however, to be filed along-with IGM:
(a)Deck Cargo Declaration / Certificate.
(b)Last port clearance copy.
(c)Amendment application (when relevant).
(d)Income Tax Certificate in case of Export Cargo.
(e)Nil export cargo certificate.
(f)Port Trust "No Demand" certificate.
(h)Application for sign on/sign off of crew (when relevant).
(i)Application for crew baggage chceking when they sign on (When relevant).
The shipping line/steamer agent needs to submit the manifest in prescribed form at the Service Centre. The shipping lines are required to submit the electronic version of the Import General manifest in floppies, containing all the details and particulars. It is to be ensured by the Shipping Lines that all the particulars and details of the Import general manifest submitted either manually or through floppies are correct. The shipping agents who do not have arrangement for data in floppy, may approach the Service Center of Customs and get the data of IGM submitted in system. They are also to ensure that details of House Bill of Lading are also incorporated in the IGM in case of consol cargo.
On arrival of the vessel, the shipping line needs to approach the Preventive officer for granting entry inwards. Before making the application, the shipping line has to make payment of the Light House dues.
In case the shipping line is filing an IGM after arrival of the vessel, the procedure as mentioned above for prior IGM, is to be followed except that the date of arrival of vessel is also indicated. After submission, the shipping line has to approach the proper officer for grant of entry inwards in the system.
(ii) IGM by Air:
The airlines are required to file IGM in prescribed format. In case of Air Cargo Complexes having EDI, the IGMs may be filed through electronic mode. The IGMs to be submitted need to contain all details and particulars. In other words, the airlines would not only be furnishing the details of the Master Airway Bills but also the House Airway bills in the case of console cargo. The airlines are also to furnish the additional information, namely, the ULD Nos. for use by the custodians.
When entering any port, all ships are required to furnish to the Commissioner of Customs, a list (or nil return) of ships stores intended for landing (excluding any consumable stores issued from any dutified shops in. Retention on board of imported stores is governed by Import Store (Retention on board) Regulations, 1963. The consumable stores can remain on board without payment of import duties during the period the vessel/Aircraft remains foreign going. Otherwise, such consumable stores are to be kept under Customs seal. Even in respect of foreign going vessels, only the stores required for immediate use of the personnel may be left unsealed. Excessive stocks of stores such as liquor, tobacco, cigarettes, etc are kept under Customs seal.
Imported goods are not to be unloaded from the vessel until Entry Inwards is granted. No imported goods are to be unloaded unless they are specified in the import manifest/report for being unloaded at that Customs station. No imported goods shall be unloaded at any place other than the places provided for such unloading. Further, imported goods shall not be unloaded from any conveyance except under the supervision of the proper officer. Similarly, for unloading imported goods on any Sunday or on any holiday, prior notice shall be given and fees prescribed in this regard shall be paid.
Under Section 115 and 116, the persons in charge of vessel or aircraft have other liabilities, which are important and noteworthy. Section 115 provides for confiscation of vessel or other conveyance under the following circumstances:
(a)A conveyance within Indian waters or port or customs area which is adopted, fitted, modified or altered for concealing goods.
(b)A conveyance from which goods are thrown overboard, staved or destroyed so as to prevent seizure by customs officers.
(c)A conveyance which disobeys any order under Section 106 to stop or land, without sufficient cause.
(d)A conveyance from which goods under drawback claim are unloaded without proper officer’s permission.
(e)A conveyance which has entered with goods, from which substantial portion of goods are missing and failure of the master to account therefor.
Any vessel when used as means of transport for smuggling of any goods or in the carriage of any smuggled goods, is liable to confiscation, unless the owner establishes that it was used without the knowledge or connivance of the owner, his agent and the person in-charge of the vessel. When any such conveyance is confiscated, an option to pay redemption fine has to be given to the owner of the conveyance. The upper limit for imposing the redemption fine is the market value of impugned goods.
Under Section 116, penalty may be imposed on the person incharge of vessel if there is failure to account for all goods loaded in the vessel for importation into India or transhipped under the provisions of Customs Act and these are not unloaded at the place of destination in India or if the quantity unloaded is short of the quantity to be unloaded at particular destination. Penalty may be waived if failure to unload or deficiency in unloading is accounted for to the satisfaction of competent officer. Thus, if there is any shortage which is not satisfactorily accounted for, the person incharge of the vessel will be liable to penalty, which may be twice the duty payable on the import goods not accounted for.
Goods imported in a vessel/aircraft attract customs duty and unless these are not meant for customs clearance at the port/airport of arrival by particular vessel/aircraft and are intended for transit by the same vessel/aircraft or transhipment to another customs station or to any place outside India, detailed customs clearance formalities of the landed goods have to be followed by the importers. In regard to the transit goods, so long as these are mentioned in import report/IGM for transit to any place outside, Customs allows transit without payment of duty. Similarly for goods brought in by particular vessel/aircraft for transhipment to another customs station detailed customs clearance formalities at the port/airport of landing are not prescribed and simple transhipment procedure has to be followed by the carrier and the concerned agencies. The customs clearance formalities have to be complied with by the importer after arrival of the goods at the other customs station. There could also be cases of transhipment of the goods after unloading to a port outside India. Here also simpler procedure for transhipment has been prescribed by regulations, and no duty is required to be paid. (Sections 52 to 56 of the Customs are relevant in this regard)
For other goods which are offloaded importers have the option to clear the goods for home consumption after payment of the duties leviable or to clear them for warehousing without immediate discharge of the duties leviable in terms of the warehousing provisions built in the Customs Act. Every importer is required to file in terms of the Section 46 an entry (which is called Bill of entry) for home consumption or warehousing in the form, as prescribed by regulations.
\ Refer Circular No. 15/2009-Cus Dated 12/5/2009
If the goods are cleared through the EDI system no formal Bill of Entry is filed as it is generated in the computer system, but the importer is required to file a cargo declaration having prescribed particulars required for The Bill of entry, where filed, is to be submitted in a set, different copies meant for different purposes and also given different colour scheme, and on the body of the bill of entry the purpose for which it will be used is generally mentioned in the non-EDI declaration.
The importer clearing the goods for domestic consumption has to file bill of entry in four copies; original and duplicate are meant for customs, third copy for the importer and the fourth copy is meant for the bank for making remittances.
In the non-EDI system alongwith the bill of entry filed by the importer or his representative the following documents are also generally required:-
Bill of Lading or Delivery Order/Airway Bill
GATT declaration form duly filled in
License wherever necessary
Letter of Credit/Bank Draft/wherever necessary
Industrial License, if required
Test report in case of chemicals
Adhoc exemption order
Catalogue, Technical write up, Literature in case of machineries, spares or chemicals as may be applicable
Separately split up value of spares, components machineries
Certificate of Origin, if preferential rate of duty is claimed
No Commission declaration
While filing the bill of entry and giving various particulars as prescribed therein the correctness of the information given has also to be certified by the importer in the form a declaration at the foot of the bill of entry and any mis-declaration/incorrect declaration has legal consequences, and due precautions should be taken by importer while signing these declarations.
Under the EDI system, the importer does not submit documents as such for assessment but submits declarations in electronic format containing all the relevant information to the Service Centre. A signed paper copy of the declaration is taken by the service centre operator for non-repudiability of the declaration. A checklist is generated for verification of data by the importer/CHA. After verification, the data is submitted to the system by the Service Centre Operator and system then generates a B/E Number, which is endorsed on the printed checklist and returned to the importer/CHA. No original documents are taken at this stage. Original documents are taken at the time of examination. The importer/CHA also need to sign on the final document after Customs clearance.
The first stage for processing a bill of entry is what is termed the noting of the bill of entry, vis-à-vis, the IGM filed by the carrier. In the non-EDI system the importer has to get the bill of entry noted in the concerned unit which checks the consignment sought to be cleared having been manifested in the particular vessel and a bill of entry number is generated and indicated on all copies. After noting the bill of entry gets sent to the appraising section of the Custom House for assessment functions, payment of duty etc. In the EDI system, the Steamer Agents get the manifest filed through EDI or by using the service centre of the Custom House and the noting aspect is checked by the system itself – which also generates bill of entry number.
After noting/registration of the Bill of entry, it is forwarded manually or electronically to the concerned Appraising Group in the Custom House dealing with the commodity sought to be cleared. Appraising Wing of the Custom House has a number of Groups dealing with earmarked commodities falling under different Chapter Headings of the Customs Tariff and they take up further scrutiny for assessment, import permissibility etc. angle.
The basic function of the assessing officer in the appraising groups is to determine the duty liability taking due note of any exemptions or benefits claimed under different export promotion schemes. They have also to check whether there are any restrictions or prohibitions on the goods imported and if they require any permission/license/permit etc., and if so whether these are forthcoming. Assessment of duty essentially involves proper classification of the goods imported in the customs tariff having due regard to the rules of interpretations, chapter and sections notes etc., and determining the duty liability. It also involves correct determination of value where the goods are assessable on ad valorem basis. The assessing officer has to take note of the invoice and other declarations submitted alongwith the bill of entry to support the valuation claim, and adjudge whether the transaction value method and the invoice value claimed for the basis of assessment is acceptable, or value needs to be redetermined having due regard to the provisions of Section 14 and the valuation rules issued thereunder, the case law and various instructions on the subject. He also takes note of the contemporaneous values and other information on valuation available with the Custom House.
Where the appraising officer is not very clear about the description of the goods from the document or as some doubts about the proper classification which may be possible only to determine after detailed examination of the nature of the goods or testing of its samples, he may give an examination order in advance of finalisation of assessment including order for drawing of representative sample. This is done generally on the reverse of the original copy of the bill of entry which is presented by the authorized agent of the importer to the appraising staff posted in the Docks/Air Cargo Complexes where the goods are got examined in the presence of the importer’s representative.
On receipt of the examination report the appraising officers in the group assesses the bill of entry. He indicates the final classification and valuation in the bill of entry indicating separately the various duties such as basic, countervailing, anti-dumping, safeguard duties etc., that may be leviable. Thereafter the bill of entry goes to Assistant Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner for confirmation depending upon certain value limits and sent to comptist who calculates the duty amount taking into account the rate of exchange at the relevant date as provided under Section 14 of the Customs Act.
After the assessment and calculation of the duty liability the importer’s representative has to deposit the duty calculated with the treasury or the nominated banks, whereafter he can go and seek delivery of the goods from the custodians.
Where the goods have already been examined for finalization of classification or valuation no further examination/checking by the dock appraising staff is required at the time of giving delivery and the goods can be taken delivery after taking appropriate orders and payment of dues to the custodians, if any.
In most cases, the appraising officer assessees the goods on the basis of information and details furnished to the importer in the bill of entry, invoice and other related documents including catalogue, write-up etc. He also determines whether the goods are permissible for import or there are any restriction/prohibition. He may allow payment of duty and delivery of the goods on what is called second check/appraising basis in case there are no restriction/prohibition. In this method, the duties as determined and calculated are paid in the Custom House and appropriate order is given on the reverse of the duplicate copy of the bill of entry and the importer or his agent after paying the duty submits the goods for examination in the import sheds in the docks etc., to the examining staff. If the goods are found to be as declared and no other discrepancies/mis-declarations etc., are detected, the importer or his agent can clear the goods after the shed appraiser gives out of charge order.
Wherever the importer is not satisfied with the classification, rate of duty or valuation as may be determined by the appraising officer, he can seek an assessment order. An appeal against the assessment order can be made to appropriate appellate authority within the time limits and in the manner prescribed.
In the EDI system of handling of the documents/declarations for taking import clearances as mentioned earlier the cargo declaration is transferred to the assessing officer in the groups electronically.
\The assessing officer processes the cargo declaration on screen with regard to all the parameters as given above for manual process. However in EDI system, all the calculations are done by the system itself. In addition, the system also supplies useful information for calculation of duty, for example, when a particular exemption notification is accepted, the system itself gives the extent of exemption under that notification and calculates the duty accordingly. Similarly, it automatically applies relevant rate of exchange in force while calculating. Thus no comptist is required in EDI system. If assessing officer needs any clarification from the importer, he may raise a query. The query is printed at the service centre and the party replies to the query through the service centre.
After assessment, a copy of the assessed bill of entry is printed in the service centre. Under EDI, documents are normally examined at the time of examination of the goods. Final bill of entry is printed after ‘out of charge’ is given by the Custom Officer.
\In EDI system, in certain cases, the facility of system appraisal is available. Under this process, the declaration of importer is taken as correct and the system itself calculates duty which is paid by the importer. In such case, no assessing officer is involved.
Also, a facility of tele-enquiry is provided in certain major Customs stations through which the status of documents filed through EDI systems could be ascertained through the telephone. If nay query is raised, the same may be got printed through fax in the office of importer/exporter/CHA.
All imported goods are required to be examined for verification of correctness of description given in the bill of entry. However, a part of the consignment is selected on random selection basis and is examined. In case the importer does not have complete information with him at the time of import, he may request for examination of the goods before assessing the duty liability or, if the Customs Appraiser/Assistant Commissioner feels the goods are required to be examined before assessment, the goods are examined prior to assessment. This is called First Appraisement. The importer has to request for first check examination at the time of filing the bill of entry or at data entry stage. The reason for seeking First Appraisement is also required to be given. On original copy of the bill of entry, the Customs Appraiser records the examination order and returns the bill of entry to the importer/CHA with the direction for examination, who is to take it to the import shed for examination of the goods in the shed. Shed Appraiser/Dock examiner examines the goods as per examination order and records his findings. In case group has called for samples, he forwards sealed samples to the group. The importer is to bring back the said bill of entry to the assessing officer for assessing the duty. Appraiser assesses the bill of entry. It is countersigned by Assistant/Deputy Commissioner if the value is more than Rs. 1 lakh.
The goods can also be examined subsequent to assessment and payment of duty. This is called Second Appraisement. Most of the consignments are cleared on second appraisement basis. It is to be noted that whole of the consignment is not examined. Only those packages which are selected on random selection basis are examined in the shed.
Under the EDI system, the bill of entry, after assessment by the group or first appraisement, as the case may be, need to be presented at the counter for registration for examination in the import shed. A declaration for correctness of entries and genuineness of the original documents needs to be made at this stage. After registration, the B/E is passed on to the shed Appraiser for examination of the goods. Along-with the B/E, the CHA is to present all the necessary documents. After completing examination of the goods, the Shed Appraiser enters the report in System and transfers first appraisement B/E to the group and gives 'out of charge' in case of already assessed Bs/E. Thereupon, the system prints Bill of Entry and order of clearance (in triplicate). All these copies carry the examination report, order of clearance number and name of Shed Appraiser. The two copies each of B/E and the order are to be returned to the CHA/Importer, after the Appraiser signs them. One copy of the order is attached to the Customs copy of B/E and retained by the Shed Appraiser.
Some major importers have been given the green channel clearance facility. It means clearance of goods is done without routine examination of the goods. They have to make a declaration in the declaration form at the time of filing of bill of entry. The appraisement is done as per normal procedure except that there would be no physical examination of the goods. Only marks and number are to be checked in such cases. However, in rare cases, if there are specific doubts regarding description or quantity of the goods, physical examination may be ordered by the senior officers/investigation wing like SIIB.
Wherever necessary, for availing duty free assessment or concessional assessment under different schemes and notifications, execution of end use bonds with Bank Guarantee or other surety is required to be furnished. These have to be executed in prescribed forms before the assessing Appraiser.
The duty can be paid in the designated banks or through TR-6 challans. Different Custom Houses have authorised different banks for payment of duty. It is necessary to check the name of the bank and the branch before depositing the duty. Bank endorses the payment particulars in challan which is submitted to the Customs.
Whenever mistakes are noticed after submission of documents, amendments to the of entry is carried out with the approval of Deputy/Assistant Commissioner. The request for amendment may be submitted with the supporting documents. For example, if the amendment of container number is required, a letter from shipping agent is required. Amendment in document may be permitted after the goods have been given out of charge i.e. goods have been cleared on sufficient proof being shown to the Deputy/Assistant Commissioner.
For faster clearance of the goods, provision has been made in section 46 of the Act, to allow filing of bill of entry prior to arrival of goods. This bill of entry is valid if vessel/aircraft carrying the goods arrive within 30 days from the date of presentation of bill of entry.
\The importer is to file 5 copies of the bill of entry and the fifth copy is called Advance Noting copy. The importer has to declare that the vessel/aircraft is due within 30 days and they have to present the bill of entry for final noting as soon as the IGM is filed. Advance noting is available to all imports except for into bond bill of entry and also during the special period.
Often in case of goods coming by container ships they are transferred at an intermediate ports (like Ceylon ) from mother vessel to smaller vessels called feeder vessels. At the time of filing of advance noting B/E, the importer does not know as to which vessel will finally bring the goods to Indian port. In such cases, the name of mother vessel may be filled in on the basis of the bill of lading. On arrival of the feeder vessel, the bill of entry may be amended to mention names of both mother vessel and feeder vessel.
The import of goods are made under specialised schemes like DEEC or EOU etc. The importer in such cases is required to execute bonds with the Customs authorities for fulfillment of conditions of respective notifications. If the importer fails to fulfill the conditions, he has to pay the duty leviable on those goods. The amount of bond would be equal to the amount of duty leviable on the imported goods. The bank guarantee is also required alongwith the bond. However, the amount of bank guarantee depends upon the status of the importer like Super Star Trading House/Trading House etc.
A separate form of bill of entry is used for clearance of goods for warehousing. All documents as required to be attached with a Bill of Entry for home consumption are also required to be filed with bill of entry for warehousing. The bill of entry is assessed in the same manner and duty payable is determined. However, since duty is not required to be paid at the time of warehousing of the goods, the purpose of assessing the goods at this stage is to secure the duty in case the goods do not reach the warehouse. The duty is paid at the time of ex-bond clearance of goods for which an ex-bond bill of entry is filed. The rate of duty applicable to imported goods cleared from a warehouse is the rate in-force on the date on which the goods are actually removed from the warehouse.
(References: Bill of Entry (Forms) Regulations, 1976, ATA carnet (Form Bill of Entry and Shipping Bill) Regulations, 1990 ,Uncleared goods (Bill of entry) regulation, 1972, , CBEC Circulars No. 22/97, dated 4/7/1997, 63/97, dated 21/11/1997).