Release of Ford Mustang, ceased by Custom-Bombay HC

Siddharth Vijay Shah, filed a Petition in the Bombay High Court, seeking the release of his imported FORD MUSTANG, which was seized by the Customs Official.

The Petitioner imported one brand new 2019 RHD Ford Mustang GT Coupe four-passenger sports car for an amount of USD 46,730. 4. The imported car was detained by the customs authorities and was ultimately seized on 20.03.2020.

The Petitioner deposited the customs duty on account of import of the said vehicle amounting to Rs.72,48,875.00, on declared assessable value of the vehicle as Rs.33,71,569.00.

Petitioner requested the authority for provisional release of the vehicle. However, no decision was taken on such request of the Petitioner. As such preferred appeal along with miscellaneous application before the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), but the CESTAT Registry informed him that it was non-functional till 31.07.2020.

Counsel for the Customs opposed the Petition in the ground that on scrutiny of the documents and physical examination of the vehicle amongst others by the chartered engineer, it was found that there are certain modifications carried out in the vehicle wherefrom it appeared to be a second-hand model. 

According to the customs officer, the vehicle appeared to be of the year 1967 make and thus around 50 to 60 years old. Therefore, the view was taken that the car was imported by violating the relevant import policy and was thus categorized as a prohibited good. Given above, the vehicle was seized on 20.03.2020 under section 111(d) of the Customs Act, 1962.

Petitioner disputed the contention of the respondents that the vehicle in question is a second hand one. It was further submitted by Dr Kantawala, Counsel for the Petitioner that the Customs Act confers a right on persons like the Petitioner to seek the provisional release of the vehicle and correspondingly, discretion has been vested on the respondents to consider the provisional release of the seized vehicle under section 110-A of the Act. 

He also referred to a decision of Bombay High Court in Ashish Puravankara Vs. Commissioner of Customs (Import), (253) E.L.T. 186 and submitted that the present case is identical to the case above. Therefore, a similar order as the one passed in Ashish Puravankara (supra) may be passed.

The Division Bench of Justices UJJAL BHUYAN & ABHAY AHUJA, after hearing the parties observed that:

  1. It is admitted that the Petitioner has paid the entire duty of Rs.72,48,875.00 on the declared assessable value of the imported car of Rs.33,71,569.00. It is also an admitted position that the vehicle is under seizure, seizure being made on 20.03.2020 though under detention since 11.01.2020 and that it has neither been confiscated nor adjudication has commenced.
  2. Contention of the respondents that the vehicle was seized under section 111(d) is not correct. The seizure was made under section 110, perhaps on the belief that the vehicle is liable to confiscation under section 111(d).
  3. There is no limitation imposed in section 110-A that a good which is categorized as a prohibited good under section 2(33) cannot be subjected to provisional release under section 110-A.
  4. When the statute itself provides for provisional release of seized goods, merely on the ground that the good in question is a prohibited one or that the aggrieved person has filed an appeal before the CESTAT cannot be the reason not to exercise the statutory discretion conferred by section 110-A. 

Operative Portion:

  1. Petitioner to execute a bond for the assessable value of the vehicle RHD Ford Mustang GT Coupe four-passenger sports car imported vide bill of entry No.6434271 dated 11.01.2020;
  2. In addition to the above, the Petitioner shall furnish a bank guarantee of any nationalized bank to the extent of 50% of the assessable value of the imported car;
  3. The Petitioner shall not create any third party right, title or interest in the said imported car till adjudication proceeding reaches finality; and
  4. Subject to compliance of the above conditions, respondent Nos.2 and 3 shall provisionally release the imported vehicle of the Petitioner, i.e. RHD Ford Mustang GT Coupe four-passenger sports car imported vide bill of entry No.6434271 dated 11.01.2020 along with all the original documents within two weeks.

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