In a landmark order to prevent illegal imports of ATVs, MUVs and superbikes into India, the Bombay high court said, “If the importer is a person who has lived abroad continuously for two years, then he or she must necessarily be the owner of the vehicle”.
The HC ordered confiscation of a Toyota Cynos imported in 2000, confiscated by the customs immediately but released in 2004 by the customs appellate tribunal, which held that the importer doesn’t have to necessarily be the owner. The HC set aside the tribunal’s order.
The policy permits new cars, jeeps, MUVs and other vehicles in the restricted category to be imported without a licence on payment of full customs duty by individuals coming to India for permanent settlement after 2 years continuous stay abroad. The condition placed on such import isn’t to sell the vehicle for 2 years thereafter.
The HC judgment passed by a bench of justices V C Daga and R M Sawant dealt with a case where the importer of the car worth more than Rs 4 Lakh then was an illiterate carpenter, Ganji Malliah, from Andhra Pradesh working in Dubai on a labour visa.
Ganji had told the customs that he was neither the owner nor had he imported any car. He said two Telugu-speaking men had offered him Rs 5,000 to use his passport for importing light bulbs. Besides, the labourer had returned to India in October 2000 from Dubai.
However, the car, manufactured in 1996, was shipped directly from Japan where it was owned by a Japanese man. The car’s registration was cancelled in mid-November. So, Ganji couldn’t buy the car from a Japanese man settled in Japan, held joint customs commissioner, Arti Srinivas, while ordering its complete confiscation in 2003.
He noted it was a clear example of how common men were used by corrupt elements to evade the law. Ganji appealed against the confiscation. The tribunal heard him and ordered the release of the car by observing that it wasn’t necessary to know how the funding had been arranged.