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Remission of duty on goods lost, destroyed or abandoned [Section 23]

Remission of duty on goods lost, destroyed or abandoned [Section 23] :

(a) Remission of duty

Without prejudice to the provisions of section 13, where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Assistant Commissioner of Customs or Deputy Commissioner of Customs that any imported goods have been lost (otherwise than as a result of pilferage) or destroyed, at any time before clearance for home consumption, the Assistant Commissioner of Customs or Deputy Commissioner of Customs shall remit the duty on such goods. [Sub-section (1)].

Analysis

1. An analysis of section 23 shows that it comes into play after the duty has been paid and even after an order for home consumption has been passed, but before the goods are actually cleared, and then it is found that they have been lost/destroyed. In that case the provision is not that goods will not be liable to duty, but duty paid on such goods shall be remitted by the Assistant/Deputy Commissioner of Customs.

2. In respect of the goods which have been pilfered after they have been unloaded but before the goods are cleared for home consumption or deposit in a warehouse, section 13 would apply and the importer would not be liable to pay the duty. In cases where section 23 is attracted, the importer is entitled to remission of duty.

3. The remission of duty is permissible only in the case of total loss of goods. This implies that the loss is forever and beyond recovery. The loss referred to in this section is generally due to natural causes like fire, flood, etc.

4. The loss referred to in sub-section (1) may be at the warehouse also.

5. In the above situation, the loss/ destruction have to be proved to the satisfaction of the Assistant Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner. Thereupon, he may pass remission orders canceling the payment of duty. In case duty has already been paid, refund can be obtained after getting the remission orders.

(b) Right to relinquish the title to the goods-abandonment of goods

The owner of any imported goods may, at any time before an order for clearance of goods for home consumption under section 47 or an order for permitting the deposit of goods in a warehouse under section 60 has been made, relinquish his title to the goods and thereupon he shall not be liable to pay the duty thereon.

However, the owner of any such imported goods shall not be allowed to relinquish his title to such goods regarding which an offence appears to have been committed under this Act or any other law for the time being in force.

Analysis

1. Meaning of relinquish

“Relinquish” means to give over the possession or control of, to leave off.

2. The aforementioned right can be exercised at any time before the passing of the order for clearance for home consumption. Before that date, it is open to the importer to relinquish the title to the goods.

3. Goods abandoned by importers

Some times, it may so happen that the importer is unwilling or unable to take delivery of the imported goods. Some of the likely causes may be:

(i) the goods may not be according to the specifications;

(ii) the goods may have been damaged or deteriorated during voyage and as such may not be useful to the importer;

(iii) there might have been breach of contract and, therefore, the importer may be unwilling to take delivery of the goods.

In all the above cases, the goods having been imported, the liability to customs duty is imposed and, therefore, the importer has to relinquish his title to the goods unconditionally and abandon them. Relinquishment is done by endorsing the document of title, viz. Bill of Lading, Airway Bill, etc. in favour of the Principal Commissioner/Commissioner of Customs along with the invoice. If the importer does so, he will not be required to pay the duty amount.

However, the owner of any such imported goods shall not be allowed to relinquish his title to such goods regarding which an offence appears to have been committed under this Act or any other law for the time being in force.

(c) Distinction between section 13 and section 23

The provisions of section 13 and section 23 can be better appreciated after going through the following points of distinction:-

Basis Pilferage of goods under section 13 Loss or destruction of goods under section 23
Meaning The word “pilfer‟ means to steal, especially in small quantities; petty theft. The word “lost‟ or “destroyed‟ refers to total loss of goods i.e. loss is forever and beyond recovery. Abandonment of goods is possible where the importer is unwilling/unable to take the delivery of the imported goods.
Duty on goods The importer shall not be liable to pay the duty leviable on such goods. The duty paid on such goods shall be remitted to the importer.
Subsequent restoration of goods Where the pilfered goods are restored to the importer after pilferage, the importer become liable to duty. In case of destruction of goods, the restoration is not possible.
Warehoused goods Provisions of section 13 are not applicable to warehoused goods. Provisions of section 23 apply to warehoused goods also.
Onus to prove the pilferage/destruction or loss of goods The onus to prove the pilferage does not lie on the importer as it is obvious at the time of examination by the proper officer. The importer has to prove the loss/destruction to the satisfaction of the Assistant/Deputy Commissioner of Customs.
Time of occurrence of pilferage or loss/destruction The imported goods must have been pilfered after the unloading thereof and before the proper officer has made an order for clearance for home consumption or deposit in a warehouse. The imported goods must have been lost/destroyed at any time before clearance for home consumption under section 47.

 

Mohit Sharma
Mohit Sharma

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