Bombay High Court says Imports without BIS cannot be Seized or Confiscated without Order, Caustic Soda Consignment from Iran Released

The petitioner, Ganesh Benzoplast Limited, the manufacturer in Iran who intended to supply caustic soda to India, in relation to M/s. Arvand Petrochemical Company, Tehran, applied to the BIS for a licence indicating that the product manufactured by them and which would be imported into India conforms to standard specification.

A consignment of caustic soda was imported by the petitioner from M/s. Mena Energy, Dubai, United Arab Emirates vide bill of entry. M/s. Mena Energy, who is the supplier had procured the quantity of caustic soda from the manufacturer in Iran i.e., M/s. Aravand Petrochemical Company. The declared value of the goods is Rs.30,70,90,590.

The officials of the Special Investigation and Intelligence Branch (Import) visited the site where the goods were kept and sealed the concerned tanks. Petitioner was directed to withhold clearing of goods until further orders. At that stage a total quantity of 19,119.353 LMTs of caustic soda was lying in the two tanks.

It was alleged that the instant import was unauthorizedly done i.e., without having a due BIS certification for goods already arrived. Thus the importer had rendered the said goods liable for confiscation under section 111(d) of the Customs Act as well as liable for penal action under section 112(a) of the said Act. Hence the petitioner was asked to show cause.

The court noted that while power of seizure is provided in section 110 of the Customs Act, section 111 thereof deals with confiscation of improperly imported goods. As per sub-section (1) of section 110, if the proper officer has reason to believe that any goods are liable to confiscation under the Customs Act, he may seize such goods.

The bench observed that seizure is made if the proper officer has reason to believe that any goods are liable to confiscation. Thus seizure may be said to be the first step to confiscation. So when the order of confiscation is set aside, the order of seizure cannot survive.

The legal implication of this is that without any order of seizure or confiscation, respondents are holding on to the goods of the petitioner. Such holding on is clearly without any authority of law and per se illegal. In fact such an action may amount to deprivation of the petitioner of his property without any authority of law and thus violative of Article 300A of the Constitution of India.

The division judge bench of Justice Anuja Prabhu Dessai and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan noted that that non-release of the goods of the petitioner by the respondents is without any justification and liable to be interfered with.

Thus, the court directed the respondent authority to release the goods i.e., caustic soda of the petitioner imported vide bill of entry forthwith without any delay.