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Scrutiny
  
India’s senseless customs laws
The government is grappling with massive customs duty evasion from citizens returning home; The problem is with the customs laws
13/10/2011

Bollywood actresses Minissha Lamba and Bipasha Basu were detained at the Mumbai Airport on May 18 and May 25 respectively for customs duty evasion over undeclared jewellery & other products. Maureen Wadia, wife of Bombay Dyeing chairman Nusli Wadia, had to pay Rs.5.3 lakh as custom duty after being detained at the Mumbai airport on September 14. Ahmedabad DRI arrested Raju Sharma of New Delhi and Vinod Kumar Sharma of Jaipur for evasion in imports of precious stones and other expensive products on August 7.

There are many such cases that keep hitting the headlines. Yes, some cases of corporate customs evasion are worth the rancid coverage. However, there’s an untold story too – and that is that India has senseless customs laws when it comes to normal citizens returning home post a tour. Take a sample. Assume you toured Hongkong for a fortnight and landed back in India. How much is the amount of duty free goods allowed? A pitiable Rs.6000 ($120). Beyond that, one has to pay 36.05% customs duty. And if you went to Hongkong (or China, Nepal, Myanmar...) for the weekend, then on your return, each and every item purchased, however lowly priced, will attract the above said customs duty.

Imagine a worse figure – as per the customs department, crew members are allowed to bring “items like chocolates, cheese, cosmetics and other petty gift items for their personal or family use up to a value of Rs. 600 ($12) only” at the end of a journey. Clearly, there’s something horribly wrong with the current customs rates. While prices of products have gone up exponentially globally, the customs department still plays on the mentality of taxing almost each and every possible product being brought into India. It is perhaps the right time for the government to update the duty free limits and related rules.

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