Kerala HC Issues Notice In PIL For Easing Customs Clearance Of Goods Imported For Flood Relief [Read Petition]

Kerala HC Issues Notice In PIL For Easing Customs Clearance Of Goods Imported For Flood Relief [Read Petition]

The petition states that due to lack of clarity in procedure for customs clearance, relief materials are piling up in airports, without benefit to victims. 

The High Court of Kerala has issued notice to respondents in a public interest litigation seeking directions to ease the procedure for customs exemption of relief materials sent from abroad for victims of the floods which wreaked havoc in the State recently.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar has directed the Centre and State Governments to give their response to the petition on August 31.

The petition filed by Anil Sebastian Pulickel, a lawyer practising in the High Court, seeks directions to ensure that 'effective steps are taken by the respondents to clear the goods that have been sent from all over the world to Kerala for the relief and rehabilitation of the people affected by the recent floods in the State of Kerala in a time bound manner'.

It may be noted that the Central Government had granted customs duty exemption to goods imported into India for flood relief in Kerala, as per notification dated August 21.  The exemption is available only if the importer certifies that the goods are meant for flood relief. Further, the goods are to be sent to government approved relief agencies to avail the exemption.

To facilitate customs clearance, the Kerala Government issued a government order on August 22, authorising District Collectors of Thiruvananathapuram, Ernakulam and Calicut(the districts where international airports are located) to identify and certify relief agencies eligible for exemption.

The petitioner points out that this government order is "unworkable".

"It is not practically possible for the District Collectors of Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Calicut to approve a particular relief agency situated in any other district in Kerala without conducting an enquiry. Hence the entire process is being delayed.  It is practically difficult for an agency situated outside the three districts to get a certificate from the District Collectors of Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Calicut that the particular organization/relief agency is entitled to get the benefit of Ext.P1 notification", stated the petition.

To illustrate the practical difficulty, Advocate Santhosh Mathew, Counsel for the petitioner cited the case of an approved relief agency in Calicut namely, 'Mission Kozhikode', which has not been able to take foreign consignments by availing customs duty exemption. It is also stated that due to lack of clarity in procedure for customs clearance, relief materials are piling up in airports, without benefit to victims.

"The currently notified process whereby only three District Collectors in the whole state can certify the bona fides of all of these organisations is unworkable. This is especially because not all of these organisations have abundant resources to undertake the certification process in a place that is far away, in the midst of the critical relief work that is keeping them engaged. Additionally, there is no clarity on what is the specific application process that these organisations must adopt to be certified as eligible for the benefit of Ext. P1", the petitioner contended.

Read Petition