The Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Custom (CBIC) has said that passengers are not required to furnish any information individually to the Customs authorities under Passenger Name Record Information Regulations that came into effect on August 8.
Under the new regulations, all airlines, flying in or out of India are required to submit 19 types of information of all passengers to the Indian Customs authority for risk analysis. CBIC has notified rules for a provision made in the Finance Act, 2017. This information will include not just the details included in the passport but all available payment/billing information including the credit card number, the name of the travel agent and even the special services provided to the passenger by the airlines.
On Wednesday, CBIC said: “Passengers are not required to individually submit any information to Customs, neither do they need to furnish any additional information to the Airlines on account of these regulations. Airlines are already collecting this information under the aegis of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.” Further, it said that these regulations are meant to enhance detection, interdiction and investigative capabilities of Customs Authorities using non-intrusive techniques for combating offences related to smuggling of contraband such as narcotics, psychotropic substances, gold, arms and ammunition. that directly impact national security.
“This mechanism is being widely used by border management agencies of several administrations,” the board said. The data exchange between the Airlines and the Customs Systems is through the PNRGOV EDIFACT, a standard electronic message format endorsed jointly by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is widely used internationally,” it said.
Although some data elements included in the Regulations are available from other sources, the objective of these regulations is to obtain this data ahead of departure or arrival of the passengers for analytics by the Customs Risk Management System. “The information collected is subject to strict information privacy and data protection and there are adequate legal and administrative safeguards built in. Processing of the information to reveal ethnicity, race, religious or philosophical beliefs and health is strictly prohibited,” the board said.
Hardware and software necessary for data protection has already been envisaged. The information received is used for further processing only by a senior officer of the rank of Principal Additional Director General/Additional Director General. In normal course, the data collected is stored only for five years after which it is disposed of by depersonalisation or anonymisation. The Regulations provide for an extensive and independent system audit and security audit to prevent misuse of the information.
“The Regulations strike a good balance between the needs of privacy and the imperatives of security,” CBIC said while expressing its commitment to work with all stakeholders to enable a smooth transition and implementation of these regulations.