Bombay HC directs Customs to allow Export of Pending Consignment of Onions with valid Shipping Bills [Read Order]

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The Bombay High Court directed the customs to allow Export of Pending Consignment of Onions with valid Shipping Bills which were presented and generated prior to 22:28:11 hours on September 14, 2020 shall be allowed subject to the clarification given by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).

The 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 by Horticulture Produce Exporters 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.

It was further submitted 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 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 division bench of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Abhay Ahuja while finding the merits in the arguments made on behalf of the petitioner 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 shipping bills.

The high court 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 court 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.

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