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Government tightens customs laws; makes offences cognizable
April, 06th 2012

The government has proposed to tighten the customs law by taking away the power to grant bail for offences punishable with imprisonment of three years or more from customs authority and giving it to courts.

Under the new provisions, proposed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the Finance Bill 2012, persons charged with serious offences, which invite penalty of imprisonment of three years or more, will have to approach court or magistrate for bail.

This amended provisions in the Customs Act will come into effect if the market value of the goods on which duties have been evaded exceed Rs 1 crore, duty evasion of over Rs 30 lakh or there is an attempt to import prohibited goods.

"...All offences punishable with a term of imprisonment of three years or more under Section 135 (of the Customs Act) shall be cognizable," says the explanation to the Finance Bill, 2012.

Experts said the move was required to check cases of evaders who are left free after penalty since that will not deter them from future offences. Such a move was required for curbing severe offences, they said.

"Earlier all offences were non-cognizable. But for investigating cases of grave offences like smuggling, incorporating such a provision was necessary," Ernst & Young Tax Partner Bipin Sapra said.

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