Due to Novel COVID-19, partial / complete lockdown has been imposed in various countries across the world. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India on March 23, 2020 announced a complete lockdown throughout the country for 21 days, as a preventive measure to slow down the spreading of the virus. The Central Government, Supreme Court and other courts / tribunals have issued guidelines regarding the procedure to be followed in respect of proceedings before courts / tribunals and lower authorities during this period.
We at L&S have attempted to answer queries frequently received from our clients regarding the issues they may face in respect of clearance of goods from Customs and procedures concerning the proceedings before various judicial and quasi-judicial forums.
CUSTOMS CLEARANCE AND TIMELINES
1. Will customs clearances get delayed during the lockdown?
2. If my consignment has been denied clearance, what steps can be taken during the present situation? In case the goods are perishable in nature, is there a fast-track mechanism possible for the clearance of goods?
3. In view of COVID-19 pandemic, are there any new restrictions imposed on the import of goods into India or export of goods from India?
4. Will the extension of timeline vide Press Release dated March 24, 2020 be also applicable in cases where the export obligation period, authorisation validity period, etc. is expiring between March 20, 2020 to June 29, 2020? Will the present lockdown period be excluded for the purpose of calculating export obligation period?
5. Is there any extension of time period for realisation of export proceeds?
6. Whether the importers / exporters would be liable to pay demurrage, ground rent, container detention charges, etc. in view of the delay in clearance of goods due to the lockdown?
7. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence [or other investigating agency] is currently investigating my company. In view of the lockdown, what would be the status of such investigation?
8. In an ongoing investigation, my company ocials were issued summons requiring them to appear in-person before the Department ocials, but they could not attend the summons proceedings due to the lockdown. Will there be any consequences for my company?
SHOW CAUSE NOTICES
9. My company is under an investigation / post import audit and the Department is likely to issue a show cause notice. Whether the period of limitation of two / five years under the Act would be impacted by the lockdown period?
10. My company has been issued a show cause notice, which provides a timeline of 30 days to file a reply. It is not possible to adhere to this timeline in view of the lockdown. Can a reply be filed after the lockdown?
11. My company has been issued a show cause notice, but the Department has not provided the relied upon documents. Is it possible to obtain the relied upon documents from the Department?
12. My company has prepared a reply to a show cause notice. Is it possible to file the reply in the current scenario?
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE ADJUDICATING AUTHORITY
13. A personal hearing has been scheduled before the adjudicating authority during the lockdown period. What steps can be taken?
14. Pursuant to a personal hearing, my company is required to file additional submissions with the adjudicating authority. What steps can I take to ensure that my submissions are on record before any order is passed by the adjudicating authority?
15. The adjudicating authority has directed my company to file relevant documents in respect of a matter remanded by an appellate forum. What steps can be taken? Can the adjudicating authority pass an order before my company is able to submit such documents?
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS (APPEALS) [‘CC (APPEALS)’]
16. My company is required to file an appeal against an order of the adjudicating authority before CC (Appeals) within 60 days from the date of communication of the order. The time-limit expires during the lockdown period. Is it possible to get an extension to file such appeal?
17. If my company is unable to file an appeal within the period of 60 days and further condonable period of 30 days falling within the lockdown period, can the CC (Appeals) condone the delay beyond this period?
18. A personal hearing has been scheduled before the CC (Appeals) during the lockdown. What steps can be taken?
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE CUSTOMS, EXCISE AND SERVICE TAX APPELLATE TRIBUNAL (’CESTAT’)
19. The time-limit to file an appeal before the CESTAT is ending during the lockdown period. Can an appeal be filed after the said period?
20. My company has been issued with a final hearing notice by the CESTAT. The hearing is scheduled during the lockdown period. What can be done in this regard?
21. The CESTAT had directed my company to file a letter / application / make pre-deposit in order to cure the defect in the appeal filed on behalf of the company. In view of the lockdown, what steps can my company take to comply with such order?
22. My company had attended the final hearing consequent to which the CESTAT reserved its final order. What is the time-limit for the CESTAT to pass the final order after the order has been reserved?
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE HIGH COURTS / SUPREME COURT
23. The time-limit to file an appeal / petition before the High Courts / Supreme Court is ending during the lockdown period. Can an appeal be filed after the lockdown period?
24. My company has filed an appeal / petition before a High Court / Supreme Court. Will the hearing be scheduled during the lockdown period?
25. The High Court / Supreme Court has allowed my company time to file counter / rejoinder or other additional documents. Can such counter / rejoinder or additional documents be filed after the lockdown period?
26. If the High Court / Supreme Court has granted stay in a matter which is set to lapse within the lockdown period, what steps can be taken?
27. The High Court / Supreme Court had begun final hearing before the lockdown and the next date of hearing falls during the lockdown period. Will the High Court / Supreme Court hear the matter at such next date?
28. My company had attended the final hearing consequent to which the High Court / Supreme Court reserved its judgment. What is the time-limit for the High Court / Supreme Court to pass the judgment after the judgment has been reserved?