Karachi: Provisional release of imported goods in cases of dispute over assessment on the basis of Valuation Ruling challenged by importers becomes impossible after recent judgment of  Supreme Court of Pakistan and addition of Proviso 3 to the Section 81 of the Customs Act 1969. The new proviso became a nightmare for importers.

The High Court of Sindh recently dismissed four identical constitutional petitions seeking interim orders of provisional release pending challenge to Valuation Rulings by importers. Shamim Ahmed, Abdul Wahid, Messers Ali Containers and Messers A.N. Industries filed petitions involving identical issue seeking interim orders from the High Court of Sindh.

The issue was triggered as previously on directions of High Court, customs department was granting provisional release in terms of Section 81 of the Customs Act 1969. However in case of Collector Customs, Lahore Versus Wasim Radio Traders the apex court sets aside the judgment by Lahore High Court and said that provisional release cannot be allowed in cases of assessment on the basis of Valuation Rulling.

The counsel for Petitioners contended that they are not seeking provisional release under section 81 of the Customs Act and High Court can exercise  jusridiction under Article 199 and can always grant relief of interim nature not withstanding the apex court judgment. They further contended that they were left remediless and compelled to pay duties and taxes on the basis of Valuation Rulings which are under challenge, hence relief sought can be granted.

Khalid Javed Khan, Amicus Curiae giving his expert opinion submitted that in the light of Section 81 (3rd Proviso) of the Act and recent judgment by the Supreme Court no application for the provisional release can be entertained. He was however of the opinion that in case the forums below are dys-functional High  Court can give relief in a limited manner and with restrictions.

Sardar Zafar Hussain Advocate, counsel representing Customs department opposed the petitions and contended that if any extra duty and taxes are paid  on the basis of assessment made perusant to Valuation Ruling, the same could be refunded as and when Petitioners are fully successful in their challenge to relevant Valuation Ruling.

The bench agreeing with the submissions of the counsel Sardar Zafar Hussain dismissed all the four petitions.