SHC dismisses petition seeking amendment in Import General Manifest

KARACHI: A petition seeking directions to allow amendment in Import General Manifest (IGM) replacing the name of original consignee who is a defaulter to the tune of millions of rupees was dismissed by a Customs Appellate bench of High Court of Sindh.

Messers Al-Hamd Steel Furnace filed the petition through Imran Iqbal Advocate. The petitioner claiming to be an importer of steel products and operator of a re-rolling mills sought amendment in the IGM under WSeboc system in terms of section 45 of the Customs Act 1969.

It was submitted that on arrival of goods, petitioner made an attempt to filed Goods Declaration which was not accepted on the count that the consignee’s name in the manifest was different. It was found that original manifest was in favour of M/s Royal Foundary. The counsel stated that amendment was made but was reversed just within few minutes.

The bench heard the sides including Khalid Rajper Advocate for the respondent custom officials and Kafeel Ahmed Abbasi representing Federal Government. The bench noted in its order that Section 43 and 44 are to be read with section 45 of the Customs Act 1969 which inter alia provides a mechanism for amending an IGM. The bench also noted that vessel carrying goods in dispute arrived and berthed on 20-06-2021 and on that date consignee was M/s Royal Foundry. It was also noted that on 9-06-2021 Inland Revenue issued a notice/letter to the Collector Port Qasim, Collector Karachi Port and Collector jamrood Road Peshawar for taking appropriate action for recovery of outstanding amount of Rs 71.179 million towards Excise Duty and default surcharge against Royal Foundry since they have failed to deposit the same despite issuance of several recovery notices and attachment of bank accounts. The Collectorates concerned were also asked to stop the clearance of the goods imported by the Royal Foundry in terms of section 14 of the Federal Excise Act with rule60 the Federal Excise Rules, 2005 read with Section 48 (1) (ca) of Sales Tax Act 1990 and Sales Tax Rules 2006.

The bench held that faced with such situation, original consignee Royal Foundry did not appear for clearance of the goods. The bench also noted that petitioner himself has stated that since consignee has failed to appear for clearance of the goods, perhaps on account of certain default, the amendment in the Bill of Lading was sought in the name of the petitioner.

“This statement itself appears to be a collusive effort between the original consignee and the petitioner only to avoid payment of government dues”, the bench noted. The bench also referred to existing law and practice that amendment in IGM can be made only prior to berthing of the vessel and further that if an officer forms an opinion that amendment is sought to overcome an omission, accident or inadvertence.

The bench held that petitioner;s case do not fall within these limits. “We are therefore of the view that such amendment could not be carried out in terms of Section 45 of the Customs Act 1969 as it is primarily an attempt to avoid payment and/or the consequences of recovery notice issued by the concerned officer of the Inland Revenue, Imcome Tax authorities”, the bench said in its order while dismissing the petition.

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