The Supreme Court of India, in a case relating to payment of customs duty held that the precise time when the gazette is published in the electronic mode assumes significance.
The arrival of the goods and the filing of the IGM was before 18:00 hours on 16 February 2019. The First respondent filed bill of entry number 2083178 dated 16 February 2019 seeking clearance of the goods for home consumption. The bill of entry was self assessed at 18:08 hours under the provisions of Section 17(1) of the Customs Act 19622 under Customs Tariff Heading 2523910 by levying nil customs duty in terms of notification 68/2012 dated 31 December 2012
On 16 February 2019, notification 5/2019 was issued by the Ministry of Finance in the Department of Revenue, in exercise of powers conferred by sub-section (1) of Section 8A of the Customs Tariff Act 1975.3 By this notification, a new tariff entry was introduced in Chapter 98 of Section XXI in the following terms:notifying that all goods originating in or exported from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – 200 % -”.
The notification contains a reference to the date (16 February 2019) and time (20:46:58) at which it was uploaded and published in the e-Gazette of the Government of India. Based on the enhancement in the rate of duty brought about by the notification, the customs authorities refused to release the goods which were assessed earlier. The bill of entry was recalled and reassessed on 20 2 “the Customs Act” 3 “the Customs Tariff Act” 10 PART C February 2019 at 18:14 hours by levying customs duty at 200 per cent and IGST at 28 per cent, enhancing the duty from Rs 73,342/- to 8,10,952/-.
The Supreme Court, while considering the provisions of the Customs Act and the General Clauses Act held as follows:
“The situation at hand, operates on a landscape which is significantly altered by the regulatory regime in the electronic age where, both – uploading of notifications in the e-gazette and filing of bills of entry- are in the electronic form. As we have previously noted, Notification 5/2019 was uploaded in the e-gazette at a specific time and date and cannot apply to bills of entry which were presented on the customs automated EDI system prior to it, attracting the legal fiction set out in Regulation 4(2) of the 2018 Regulations.
Copy of judgment attached.