KARACHI: A division bench of High Court of Sindh comprising Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan allowed about a dozen constitution petitions filed by importers of raw jute fibre from Bangladesh while directing the authorities of Pakistan Customs “to make appropriate corrections in the above referred SROs to clear the ambiguity created therein through the exclusion of PCT heading 5303.1000 from Customs Tariff”.
Thal Limited, White Pearl Jute Mills Limited, Sargodha Jute Mills Limited, Madina Jute Limited and others filed the petitions. According to details these petitions arise in identical circumstances where the Respondents (mainly Customs Authorities) have denied concession granted to the Petitioners through SRO 558(I)/2004 read with SOR 2 585(I)/2012 in terms of which per Petitioners’ counsel contention Raw Jute imported by the Petitioners from Bangladesh are declared zero “0%” custom duties.
The petitioners who are members of Pakistan Jute Mills Association (PJMA) have been importing Raw Jute from Bangladesh over the years giving by way of historical imposition of the custom duties. The counsel for petitioners submitted that between the year 2001-2002 the goods were imported under PCT heading 5303.1000 and custom duty at the rate of 10% were charged thereof, however, between the years 2002 to 2005 the said PCT headings were sub-divided into 5303.1010, 5303.1020 and 5303.1090 and customs duty was charged at a rate of 5% thereof.
However, pursuant to SRO 558(I)/2004 Custom Authorities granted exemption on goods imported from Bangladesh under the relevant PCT headings and goods three headings were still charged at the rate of 5% effective from 2007 till 2014, government on its own motion granted exemption to goods imported under the above referred three categories which situation was changed between the year 2014-15 when 1% customs duty was levied while under SRO 558(I)/2004 at Serial 976 “Jute and other textile bast fibres, raw or retted” falling in the category of PCT heading 5303.1000 was declared duty free, however, the Customs Authorities charged these goods at the rate of 1% (which is increased in the year 2015 to 2%) and the importers paid the said duty under protest, however, remain in communication with the relevant authorities as to clarification that goods imported from Bangladesh under SRO 558 under PCT heading 5303.1010 etc., were exempted 100% duty concession, clarification in this regard was issued by the Ministry of Commerce on 02.02.2015. Notwithstanding, therewith a clarification from the Board of Revenue vide Letter dated 27.10.2001 was already on file which placing relief of SRO 374(I)/2000 declared goods falling under PCT heading 5303.1000 cover sub-heading 5303.1010. Taking up to the root of the problem, the learned counsel drew our attention to Pakistan Customs Tariff Volume-I, 18th Edition for the year 2002- 2003 where certain amendments were made under Chapter 53 where the main PCT heading 53.03 included “Jute and other textile bast fibres (excluding flax, 3 true hemp and ramle), raw or processed but not spun; low and wastes of these fibres (including yarn waste and garneted stock)” and while giving the description as “Jute and other bast fibres”, failed to mention the appropriate PCT heading of 5303.1000, however, sub headings 5303.1010 for Jute, cutting, 5303.1020 for Jute, waste and 5303.1090 for other products, were included as sub headings. Since the heading “Jute and other textile bast fibres” were not given any specific heading, this cause confusion in interpreting the same description where same description given under SRO 558(i)/2004 and SRO 585(i)/2012 where the same description was accorded PCT heading 5303.1000 in terms of which goods imported from SAARC countries and LDCs were given complete customs duties exemption. This anomaly similarly caused the Respondent