In a significant ruling, the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), while upholding the order for confiscation held that the gold bangles brought into the country without declaring them cannot be called bona fide personal baggage but only smuggled goods.
The appellants claimed that the gold bangles were given by their daughter while they were in Chicago. The department was of the opinion that in view of the FTP since the couple had not stayed abroad for more than six months, they were not ‘eligible passengers’ to bring gold. Further, as they had not declared the gold bangles before the Customs before leaving India, the same could not be considered as personal baggage and hence are liable to confiscation under the Customs Act, 1962.
The adjudication proceedings culminated in the confiscation of the gold bangles with an option to redeem the same on payment of redemption fine and appropriate Customs duty. Penalties were also imposed u/s 112 and u/s 114AA of the Act.
The Commissioner(A) dismissed the appeal of the husband-wife duo but the Tribunal had remanded the matter.
The appellant claimed that these bangles were actually taken by her out of India while leaving and have been brought back in the genuine personal baggage.
Analyzing the records, the Tribunal observed that “when the bangles seized by the Customs Officers from the passenger, she claimed that the same was given by her daughter while she was in Chicago and carried out them while leaving from abroad. Therefore, this argument of the appellant holds no water.”
“As far as the merits of the case are concerned, the fact is that the appellant had, as per the records, got the bangles while she arrived at Hyderabad Airport and had not declared the same to the Officers under Section 77. It is the responsibility of the passenger to make a declaration which she failed. The fact that there were some blank forms signed by her which are lying in the coat pocket of her husband does not change this situation. On merits, she could have claimed that the bangles were actually taken by her out of India by producing evidence of such a declaration made before the Customs authorities while leaving the country. She failed to do so. The gold bangles so brought in by the appellant without declaring them cannot be called bonafide baggage but only smuggled goods. They cannot even claim ignorance because they had blank baggage declaration forms which they signed and kept in the pocket until caught,” the Tribunal said.