It is one thing for the Customs authorities to stop export of goods on the ground that there is a wrong description but quite another for them to confiscate it to the detriment of the exporter, especially if the product is perishable.
In Prion Enterprises vs Commissioner of Customs, the Delhi High Court was seized of a matter involving export of basmati rice.
The Customs authorities’ stance was that the rice was not of 7mm length, the basic norm for treating the grade as basmati whereas the appellant contended that it was of 6.6 mm, accepted as good enough by the authorities.
Be that as it may, having stopped exports, the authorities had no business to sit on the consignment by confiscating it. Confiscation is an extreme measure to be resorted to only in case of contraband and other prohibited goods.
The High Court gave the Customs authorities 72 hours to release the rice, a perishable commodity which already must have deteriorated in the course of its Customs custody for over a year.
(The author is a New Delhi-based chartered accountant).