Major highlights of Ministry of Commerce in 2020 - The Daily Guardian
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Major highlights of Ministry of Commerce in 2020

Tarun Nangia

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The major highlights of the Department of Commerce during the year 2020 will explain the measures taken for promotion of trade and commerce nationally and internationally.

1. RELIEF FOR EXPORTERS DURING COVID-19

• Foreign Trade Policy extended upto 31st March 2021

• Validity of Advance Authorizations extended by 6 months

• Export Obligation Period extended by 6 months

• The Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS), having provision of Rs 3 lakh Cr, is 100% credit guarantee and Collateral Free Automatic Loans for MSMEs

• Fund of Funds for equity infusion in MSMEs and additional support to farmers via concessional credit

2. INDIA AS A SUPPLIER OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES TO THE WORLD (DURING COVID-19)

• DGFT tweaked both export and import policy of sensitive medical inputs to ensure adequate supplies within the country

• India supplied around 45 tons and 400 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to around 114 countries globally

• Paracetamol supplies of around 96 million tablets, 0.4 million of suspension IP, 0.8 million bottles and 270 MT, in various other forms were made to 24 countries, along with supplies of other essential materials to ~57 countries

• PPE production capacity revamped to half million kits everyday from virtually nil earlier

3. ENHANCED EASE OF DOING BUSINESS THROUGH ELECTRONIC GOVERNANCE AND TRADE FACILITATION

• Electronic Platform for Preferential Certificate of Origin was released. Various FTA partner countries were persuaded to accept e-COOs and till date ~1.3 Lakh COOs have been issued from the e-platform

• Duty Exemption Authorizations such as Advance Authorization & EPCG were made paperless and the digitally encrypted authorization data is auto-transmitted to Customs

MEIS Export Benefits issued through faceless, auto-approval processes in real-time and supplemented with an online module for voluntary e-transfer of Duty Credit Scrips

Implemented Steel Import Monitoring System (SIMS)for advance intimation of steel imports

Import Monitoring System (IMS) being developed for Aluminum, Copper, Footwear, Furniture, Paper, Sports Goods, Gym equipment etc

24×7 Auto-Generation of e-IEC (Importer Exporter Code)

4. REDUCING NON-ESSENTIAL IMPORTS

• Restrictions imposed on items wherein there exists domestic capabilities to produce/ manufacture goods or to encourage domestic industries such as Gold & Silver, Bio-fuels, Aggarbatti, New pneumatic tyres, Power tiller & components and Colour television sets etc

• Imports of items such as cut flowers, natural rubber etc are being discouraged by imposing port-restrictions; and to reduce imports of items such as toys and LED products and DC or AC supplied control gears for LED modules they are now subject to compliance of BIS standards

• Imports of ACs with refrigerants & Stock lot of writing & printing paper have been prohibited

• During the period from 01.04.2020 to 30.12.2020, DGTR initiated 43 anti-dumping investigations, 4 countervailing duty investigations and 1 safeguard investigation

• Final findings were issued in 23 anti-dumping investigations & 4 safeguard investigations and preliminary findings were issued in 11 investigations during this period

5. ADOPTION OF TECHNICAL REGULATIONS (TRS) AND QCO’S

• Technical Regulations formulated for 176 product lines (worth $ 49.9 Billion) & TRs for 371 products in progress

• 71 HSN Codes have been identified by the DoC based on import. Out of these, QCOs notified for 22; 13 are under consideration; on the remaining HSN codes QCO not feasible

6. PROCUREMENT REIMAGINED WITH GOVERNMENT E-MARKETPLACE (GEM)

• Promoting transparent public procurement while giving a fair opportunity and level playing field to vendors

• Total transaction value on GeM portal has crossed Rs. 74,552 Crore as on 30th December 2020. There are 17.6 lakh listed products, 9 lakh sellers and service providers and 11,543 product categories on GeM

7. SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE

• Insertion of Rule 53A in the SEZ Rules 2006 amendment dated 31.12.2019: The amendment shall provide an exemption to units located in an International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) from complying with the “Net Foreign Exchange Earnings” (NFE) condition prescribed in Rule 53 of the SEZ Rules

• Amendment in Rule 24(3) of SEZ Rules dated 23.10.2020: For drawbacks and other benefits under the Customs & Central Excise Duties Drawback Rules, 2017, a provision has been incorporated stipulating that in case of supplies from DTA to foreign suppliers in FTWZ, the same shall be admissible where payments are made in foreign currency by the foreign supplier to DTA

• Covid specific compliance measures/initiatives:

• Development Commissioners were directed to facilitate all extensions of Letter of Approvals (LoAs)/Letter of Permission (LOP) for SEZ/EOUs and other compliances through electronic mode in a time‐bound manner

• Power was delegated to Development Commissioners for broad-banding in case of manufacturing of essential items like masks, sanitizer, gowns and other protective preventive products/instruments subject to post-facto ratification by UAC

8. FAST TRACK MECHANISM FOR TRADE REMEDY

• The e-filing facility for anti-dumping investigations has been formally launched to facilitate filing of petitions by the Domestic industry

• Amendment in AD, CVD, SG Rules have been notified on 02.20.2020

• Online portal titled ARTIS (Application for Remedies in Trade for Indian industry and other Stakeholders) has been developed to facilitate online filing of applications for trade remedies. 31 applications filed through ARTIS

Helpdesk has been operationalized in DGTR since September 2019 to assist the domestic industry, especially the MSME sector

• Average time taken to initiate an anti-dumping investigation has been brought down from 43 days in 2018-19 to 33 days in 2019-20 and average time for completing an investigation has been brought down to 234 days in 2019-20, from 281 days during 2018-19 and more than 400 days in previous years

9. ENHANCED CAPACITY OF EXPORT CREDIT, INSURANCE AND MAI ASSISTANCE

• Capital infusion in ECGC of Rs. 390 Crore made during the current financial

• Assistance of Rs 122.42 Crore has been provided under Market Access Initiatives

• During Jan-Nov 2020, ECGC has supported exports of Rs 449.531 Crore, earned Rs 899 Crore in premium, added 14050 buyers, issued 8449 policies and settled claims of Rs 646.72 Crore

• Under National Export Insurance Account during January-November 2020, value of exports supported was Rs 1680.17 Crore and insurance cover worth Rs 1803.15 Crore was issued

10. BILATERAL TRADE PROMOTION

• European Union: 15th India-EU Summit represented by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India and President of European Commission was held virtually on 15.7.2020. In this summit, the leaders adopted “India-EU Strategic Partnership: A Roadmap to 2025” to guide cooperation between India and the EU over the next five years

• Indonesia: A Bilateral meeting between Hon’ble CIM and Indonesian Trade Minister was held on 20.02.2020 in New Delhi wherein Market access issues faced by India in auto sector, agriculture sector (quota issue in bovine meat, pending approval of dairy plants, import restriction on chilies, discriminatory tariff issue on rice, International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis (ICUMSA) level of Sugar), pharmaceuticals, textiles etc. were discussed in detail

Mauritius: India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement CECPA negotiations for trade in goods and trade in services, have been completed. The Agreement is near finalization

• US: COVID-19 has led to increased trade and cooperation between India and US with India making gestures such as relaxation of export restrictions on 24 APIs and hydroxychloroquine.

Three USA companies are currently engaged with their Indian counterparts for mass production of COVID-19 vaccines in India

Kuwait: A Virtual meeting between Hon’ble CIM and His Excellency Mr. Khalid Naser Al Roudan, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Kuwait heldon 21stJuly 2020 wherein after extensive consultation with  the stakeholders (Line Ministries and EPCs), the Rules of Origin /Product Specific Rules under the India-Mauritius CECPA has been revised to make it more stringent to contain possible circumvention

UK: The 14th meeting of the India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO)  was organized on 24th July, 2020, wherein both sides committed to an Enhanced Trade Partnership as part of a roadmap that could lead to a future FTA and agreed to cooperation in many other issues of commonality like Food & Drink sector, Data issues etc.

• West Africa: The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) organized virtually the “India-West Africa Summit and Buyer Sellers Meet 2020” from 19th to 20th November 2020. The meet primarily focused on sectors like, Agriculture & Food Processing, Healthcare & Pharma, Energy Infrastructure, ICT & Telecommunications, Apparel, etc.

Oman: 9th Session of India-Oman Joint Commission Meeting was held on 19th October, 2020. Both sides reviewed the progress of prospective Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) in the field of mining, standards & metrology, financial intelligence, cultural exchange, and information technology, and agreed to conclude them expeditiously.

11. MULTILATERAL TRADE INITIATIVES/EVENTS

BRICS: Under the presidency of Russia, 3 meetings of CGETI (23rd, 24th & 25th) were held in February, April and July, 2020. While the 23rd Meeting was held physically in Moscow on 26-28 February, 2020; the 24th and the 25th Meeting were held virtually because of Covid-19 pandemic. The Commerce and Industry Minister led the Indian delegation for the 10th BRICS Trade Ministers’ meeting held virtually on 23rd July, 2020

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): India is the Chair of Council of Heads of Government during the year 2020. India held meetings of the Ministers responsible for Foreign Economic and Foreign Trade Activities of the SCO Member States virtually on 28th October, 2020 under the leadership of Hon’ble Commerce and Industry Minister. 

12. STRENGTHENING TRADE RELATED INFRASTRUCTURE AND LOGISTICS

• India improved its ranking from 77 in 2019 to 63 in 2020 in the Ease of Doing Business Report of the World Bank

• Improved Port Community System 1x (PCS 1x) was introduced in all major ports

• 100% of all EXIM cargo can now be tracked and traced through RFID tagging of containers

• “Turant customs” has been implemented to make customs clearance a face-less exercise

• Mobile X-Ray scanners are being installed at major ports

• Mandatory electronic toll collection system (FASTag) for reducing time loss at time toll plaza

• Till date, total 40 projects have been approved under the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES), out of which 8 projects have been completed

13. IMPLEMENTATION OF AGRICULTURE EXPORT POLICY FOR PROMOTION OF AGRICULTURE EXPORT

• The Government has taken several steps to implement the Agriculture Export Policy (AEP). 16 States have finalized the State specific Action Plans. State Level Monitoring committee has been formed in 20 States and 1 UT. Cluster Level Committees have been formed in 23 of the 47 product-district clusters identified under the AEP

10 TOP PRODUCTS AND 20 POTENTIAL PRODUCTS FROM THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR IDENTIFIED FOR EXPORTS

• APEDA has also engaged with 60 Indian missions for preparing country-wise agri-export strategy. The opportunities thus analyzed have been shared with trade bodies and exporters

• Farmer Connect Portal has been launched for providing a platform for FPOs, Cooperatives to interact with exporters and till date 2340 FPO/FPCs & 1830 exporters have been registered

• Export of fresh vegetables and mangoes from Varanasi and black Rice from Chandauli has taken place for the first time. Exports have also taken place from other clusters viz. oranges from Nagpur, bananas from Theni and Anantpur, mango from Lucknow etc

• The export of essential commodities has registered substantial growth, with export of non-basmati rice increasing by 105.20%, sugar by 60.75%, wheat by 356.86%, vegetable oils by 216.11%, pulses by 27.33% and other cereals by 154.68% during the period from April to November 2020 as compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.

14. PLANTATION SECTOR

• Rubber: A new high yielding and cold resistant clone exclusively for North East, has been developed by Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) in February 2020. A new Rubber Products Incubation Centre was commissioned in June 2020 at RRRI

• Spices: Projects launched by Spice Board during 2020 are: National Sustainable Spice Programme in association with World Spice Organization; Global Environmental Fund Project in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh; Doubling of exports of spices in line with Agriculture Export Policy and increasing farmers income by INDGAP Certification in collaboration with QCI

• Tea: Alternative e-commerce auction platform (m-junction) has been set up in Jorhat district of Assam to provide value added services like central warehousing & logistics. The average tea auction prices for 2020-21 (Apr-Nov) stands at Rs. 215.90 per Kg, an improvement of Rs.69.97 per Kg (47.95%) compared to corresponding period last year which helped the Small Tea Growers in realising higher price of green leaves

• Coffee: Coffee Board has established an Atal Incubation Centre – Central Coffee Research Institute – Centre for Development under Atal Innovation Mission of NITI Aayog.

15. SECTOR SPECIFIC

• Leather: Despite COVID 19 Pandemic, the leather, leather products and footwear industry achieved 63.5% of export performance in dollar terms, during April – November 2020 viz-a-viz April – November 2019. Due to revision in definition of MSMEs about 98% of the units in the leather, leather products and footwear sector came under MSME (92% earlier). Revised finished leather norms were notified to facilitate export of new types of leathers having huge demand in the global market and export of finished leathers

Chemicals and Petrochemicals: During the period from April to November 2020; several Product Groups/Panels have recorded significant positive growth in exports, namely, Bulk minerals and Ores (30%), Ossein & Gelatin (10%), Human Hair Products (16.3%), Essential Oils (8.9%), Plant and Plant portion (25%), Fixed Vegetables, Oil cake & others (12%), Shellac and Lac Based Products (253%)

• Textiles: In a span of a few months, India became the second largest manufacturer of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits in the world. Keeping in view the growing production of PPE and masks in the country and ever-increasing global demand for the same, export of PPE medical coveralls and masks was allowed

• Gems and Jewellery: To provide relief to gems and jewellery exporters due to Covid-19 pandemic, issues faced by exporters were taken up with concerned authorities, viz. DGFT, RBI and Ministry of Finance for timely resolution. RBI extended the realization period of exports proceed from 9 months to 15 months for exports made upto 31st Jul 2020.

• Engineering: Steel at export parity price: To address the issue of rising steel prices for Engineering MSMEs, DoC & Ministry of Steel held discussions with Engineering Exports Promotion Council (EEPC) India and the Steel Producers to supply steel to MSME members of EEPC at export parity price. The Standard Operating Procedure in this regard was issued.

16. INDIA TRADE PROMOTION ORGANISATION (ITPO)

• In keeping up with the needs and requirements of modern exhibition and convention industry, ITPO has undertaken a mega project of redevelopment of Pragati Maidan into a world-class iconic International Exhibition and Convention Centre (IECC) which will be a unique symbol of New India and help improve the nation’s image in terms of world class modern MICE infrastructure. The project is targeted to be completed by October, 2021(except Hall A6 which may go up to March 2022).

MAJOR MEASURES TAKEN

FOREIGN TRADE POLICY EXTENDED UP TO 31 MARCH 2021

• Restrictions imposed on items wherein there exists domestic capabilities such as Aggarbatti, New pneumatic tyres, Power tiller & components and Colour television sets

• Technical Regulations formulated for 176 product lines (worth $ 49.9 Billion) & TRs for 371 products in progress

• Average time for completing an investigation brought down to 234 days in 2019-20, from 281 days during 2018-19 and more than 400 days in previous years

• Implemented Steel Import Monitoring System for advance intimation of steel imports

• India became the world’s pharmacy during the COVID-19 period. India supplied hydroxychloroquine to ~114 countries globally

• Total transaction value on GeM portal has crossed Rs. 74,552 Cr as on 30th December 2020. There are 17.6 lakh listed products, 9 lakh sellers and service providers

• Enhanced ease of doing business through electronic governance and trade facilitation

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Policy & Politics

Freedom of speech & sedition law in India : An analysis in the light of recent controversy

The definition of sedition must be narrowed down to encompass only the problems pertaining to the territorial integrity of India, in addition to the sovereignty of the country. The word ‘sedition’ is extraordinarily nuanced and needs to be implemented with caution. It should rarely be used but kept by and large as a deterrent.

Raju Kumar

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INTRODUCTION

It is an irony for the mostdemocratic nation, ie, India, where freedom of speech and expression has been granted under the Indian Constitu- tion, and while exercising their power enshrined un- der the Constitution of India. they are being booked for the offence of sedition. Accord ing to the report of Rights and Risks Analysis Group, as many as 55 journalists were targeted by the government during 25 March and 31 May for covering facts about the government handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recently, the Supreme Court of India has quashed the sedition case registered against senior journalist Vinod Dua in Himachal Pradesh. The verdict was pronounced by a single judge bench led by Hon’ble Justice UU. Lalit.

Vinod Dua was booked for sedition for criticising the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Covid-19 lock down and had uploaded the same on Youtube last year, While granting the relief the court relied on the principles laid down in the Judgment of Kedar Nath. The judg ment was delivered in the year 1962, where the consti- tutional validity of sedition law in India was validated. However, it was observed that free speech, discussions on matters of government functioning and their criti cism, and freedom of press are “essential for the proper functioning of the processes of popular government Currently, in the Vinod Dua case, the Hon’ble Court has also observed that the jour nalist will be entitled to pro tection under the judgment”.

It was further observed that “It must, however, beclarified that every Journalist will be entitled to protection in terms of Kedar Nath Singh, as every prosecution under Sections 124 and 505 of the IPC must be in strict conformity with the scope and ambit of said Sections as explained in, and completely in tune with the law laid down in Kedar Nath Singh”. The Court Held that

HISTORICAL

BACKGROUND OF SEDITION LAW

Sedition laws were enacted during 17th century England, when the lawmakers believed that only good opinions of the government should survive as the criticism of a Govern- ment may result in detri- mental to the government and monarchy. The law was originally drafted in 1837 by the father of the Indian Penal Code, Thomas Macaulay, but it was omitted when the In- dian Penal Code (IPC) was enacted in the year 1860.

Many freedom fighters were charged under this provision which includes the case of Joggendra Chandra Bose, who was the editor of the newspaper, Bangbosi, who wrote an article criticis ing the age of consent Bill for posing a threat to the religion and for its coercive relation ship with Indians.

Great freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi were also booked under this offense.

SEDITION LAW IN INDIA: CURRENT SCENARIO

Sedition is an offense under Sectio 124A of the Indian Penal Code (Hereinafter re- ferred to as IPC), 1860. See tion 124A IPC, defines the offense sedition when “any person by words, either spo- kenorwritten, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or con- tempt, or excites or attempts toexcite disaffection towards the government established by law in India”. Disaffection also includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. How ever, it is here notable that comments without exciting or attempting to excite ha tred, contempt or disaffee tion, will not constitute an offense under this section.

PUNISHMENT FOR SEDITION

Sedition is a non-bailable offense. Punishment un der Section 124A ranges from imprisonment up to three years to a life term. to which fine may be added. It is also notable that if a person is charged under this law, he will be barred from a govern ment Job. They have to live without their passport and must produce themselves in
constitutional. Furthermore, it was also held that the dis turbing the public order will mean nothing less than en dangering the foundations of the Stateor threatening its overthrow: These Judgments prompted the First Constitu tion Amendment, where Ar ticle 19 (2) was rewritten to replace “undermining the security of the State” with “in the interest of public order”. In the year 1962, in the historic judgment of Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar. the supreme court decided on the constitutionality of See tion 124A. The Hon’ble court upheld the constitutionality of sedition, but had limited its application to “acts involving intention or tendency tore ate disorder,ordisturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence”. Itdistinguished these from “very strong speech” or the use of “vigor ous words” strongly critical of the government.

In the year 1965, the Su preme Court, in the judgment of Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab, held that mere slo ganeering which evoked no public response did not amount to sedition.

ARGUMENTS FOR SECTION 124A

The Provision of Sedition law has its application in fighting anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements. It is argued withinside the fa- vour of this law that, it pro tects the elected government from tries to overthrow the authorities with violence and unlawful means. The continued existence of the government set up through regulation is an important circumstance of the stability of the State. Furthermore, it is also believed that if Contempt of court results in the penal action, the contempt of Gov ernment should also attract
the same.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST SECTION 124A

The Provision of Sedition Law isarelic of colonial lega cyand it is not fit for democra- ey This is a restriction on the legal exercise of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution. Government disagreements and criti cisms are an important part of healthy public debate in dynamie democracy. They should not be constructed as sedition. It is notable that The British who resisted the suppression of the Indians overturned their countrys laws. India has no reason not to abolish this part and
the time has come to amend this portion. It is also argued against this law that the terms usedunder Section 124A like disaffection are vague and subject to different interpre- tations to the whims and fan- cies of the investigating offi- cers. The sedition law isbeing misused as a tool to persecute political dissent. A wide and concentrated executive dis- cretion is inbuilt into it which permits the blatant abuse.

CONCLUSION AND WAY FORWARD

Dr Justice (Retd.) Balbir Singh Chouhan has observed that “The sedition law needs reconsideration”. Since the creation of this British Sedition Law, its application has always been inconsistent. In all cases, its application is vague and self-contradictory. Considering that it is used to suppress the masses, when it serves the masses, its application was initially vague. It is used as a tool to strengthen political motivations by preventing speeches that threaten the authority of the country. A clear and unam- biguous explanation of the crime. In recent years, the ap- plication of the sedition law has been too arbitrary and has become a controversial topic. Although our sedition position was established in 1960, it still exists. Over the past 50 years, Indian society has developed rapidly, and people have shown “toler ance” towards summons and violence. The nature of the government has also changed, and people’s under- standing of the government is different from that of its representatives.

India is the largest de- mocracy of the world and the right to free speech and expression is a vital aspect of democracy. The expres- sion or thought that isn’t in consonance with the policy

Freedom of speech & sedition kew in India: An analysis in the light of recent controversy

of the government of the day must now no longer be taken into consideration as sedition. Section 124A mus now no longer be misused as a device to scale down loose speech. The SC caveat, giver in Kedar Nath case, on pros ecution beneathneath the regulation can test its misuse It needs to be tested under the modified facts and situation: 1 additionally at the anvi of ever-evolving tests of ne cessity, proportionality and arbitrariness. The higher judiciary must use its super visory powers to sensitize the magistracy and police to the constitutional provision: protective free speech. The definition of sedition mus be narrowed down, to en compass only the problem: pertaining to the territoria integrity of India in addi tion to the sovereignty of the country. The word ‘sedition is extraordinarily nuancec and needs to be implement ed with caution. It is sort of a cannon that ought now no longer for use to shoot a mouse; however the arsena additionally needs posses sion of cannons, by and larg as a deterrent, and sometimes for shooting.

India is the largest democracy of the world and the right to free speech and expression
is a vital aspect of democracy. The expression or thought that isn’t in consonance
with the policy of the government of the day must now no longer be taken into
consideration as sedition. Section 124A must now no longer be misused as a device
to scale down loose speech. The SC caveat, given in the Kedarnath case, can test its
misuse. It needs to be tested under the modified facts and situations and additionally
at the anvil of ever-evolving tests of necessity, proportionality and arbitrariness.

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Policy & Politics

Tax on ocean freight: A case of inequitable double taxation at its best

Supply of ocean freight service is not covered either by Section 7 (inter-state supply) or Section 8 (intra-state supply) of the IGST Act. The Act does not contemplate levy or collection of tax from a person who is neither the supplier nor the recipient of supply.

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HOW TAX ON OCEAN FREIGHT WORKS

 Ocean Freight is a method of transporting huge quantities of goods through the sea. The levy of taxes on Ocean Freight has been a matter of dispute in India for a while now. The GST law requires the importers to pay tax on ocean freight services under Section 9(3) of the CGST Act and Section 5(3) of the IGST Act, better known as the ‘Reverse Charge Mechanism’.

The location of the Service Provider (SP) and the Service Recipient (SR) must be considered. If the location of the SP and the SR is in India, Section 12(8) applies. But when the Location of SP or SR is outside India, the location of the SR is considered, unless the location of the SP is not known, then the SP’s location is considered but only for transportation [under Section 13(9)]. If the SP and SR are both outside India, the Importer is liable to pay IGST @ 5%. In addition to this, the importer also pays customs duty, freight on the CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) value and insurance even if the importer has paid IGST on the CIF value, he is still required to pay GST on ocean freight. This, is what any prudent person would term as “double taxation”.

When it comes to import on the CIF basis, the foreign supplier transports goods from a place outside India through a foreign shipping agency, to a port located in India. In CIF, the freight is paid by the foreign exporter to the shipping agency and the foreign supplier transports such shipment through the foreign shipping agency.

BEFORE GST

 From 01.06.2016, transportation of goods from a place outside India up to the customs clearance station in India became liable to service tax, through the Finance Act, 2016. But an exemption was given for services by way of transportation of goods by an aircraft from a place outside India up to the customs clearance station.

If the service provider was situated outside India, the liability to pay service tax would be on the service recipient. In Free on Board (FoB) imports, service tax would be payable by the shipping line, if the shipping line was based in India; and the service tax would be payable by the importer under reverse charge if the shipping line is not based in India.

In case of CIF imports, there was no service tax levy on freight, as the service provider as well as the service recipient are situated outside India.

There existed ambiguity in levy of service tax that was attracted on ocean freight component only in case of FOB imports, and not attracted for CIF imports.

Vide Notifications dated. 12.01.2017 (Notification 3/2017) and 20.06.2012 (Notification 30/2012 ST), some efforts were made to clear the ambiguities. In addition to this, in respect of services provided or agreed to be provided by way of transportation of goods by a vessel from a place outside India up to the customs clearance station in India, the person liable for paying service tax other than the service provider would be the person in India who complies with sections 29, 30 or 38 read with section 148 of the Customs Act, 1962.

In addition to this a series of Notifications were issued pursuant to the problem at hand:

 1. Vide Notification dated. 13.04.2017 (Notification 2/2017 ST), the definition of “person liable for payment of service tax” under Rule 2 (1) (d) (i) was amended and a new sub rule (Rule 7CA) was introduced in the Service Tax Rules, 1994.

 2. Vide Notification dated. 13.04.2017 (Notification 14/2017 ST), a new rule, Rule 8B was introduced in Point of Taxation Rules, 2011, which spoke about the “Determination of point of taxation in case of services provided by a person located in non-taxable territory to a person in non-taxable territory.”

3. Vide Notification dated. 13.04.2017 (Notification 10/2017 CE NT), the definition of “input service” in the CENVAT Credit Rules, 2004, was amended to further facilitate proper implementation of the respective tax provisions.

The importer was thus made liable to pay service tax for the services of transportation of goods by vessel from a foreign port to Indian port in case of CIF imports.

 The above position continued up to 30.06.2017, i.e., until the introduction of GST.

UNDER GST

 And as per Section 14 of the Customs Act, 1962, the value of the imported goods shall be the transaction value of such goods for the purpose of levy of Customs duty and such transaction value in the case of imported goods shall include, in addition to price, any amount paid or payable for costs and services, including commissions and brokerage, royalties and licence fees, costs of transportation to the place of import, insurance, loading, unloading and handling charges to the extent as per Rule 10(2) of the Customs valuation (Determination of Value of Imported Goods) Rules, 2007.

Section 5(3) of the IGST Act, 2017 empowered the Centre to issue notification, specify categories of supply of goods or services or both, the tax on which shall be paid on reverse charge basis by the recipient of such goods or services or both and the recipient of such goods or services or both is liable to pay tax under reverse charge in relation to the supply of such goods or services or both.

Where the value of taxable service provided by a person located in non-taxable territory to a person located in non-taxable territory by way of transportation of goods by a vessel from a place outside India up to the customs station of clearance in India is not available with the person liable for paying integrated tax, the same shall be deemed to be 10 % of the CIF value of imported goods.

How ocean freight suffers double taxation

Ocean freight component suffers tax twice; first, it suffers IGST as component of Customs Duty on imported goods on CIF basis and second time IGST @ 5% in the form of Import of Services (Reverse Charge Mechanism) for payment by the importer. Therefore, IGST payment is levied twice on Ocean freight in the guise as part of transaction value of imported goods.

The impugned notifications are contrary to the provisions of Article 265 of the Indian Constitution which says that “no tax shall be levied or collected except by authority of law”. A delegated legislation (includes the notifications herein or rules) cannot provide levy or collection of tax which is not authorised by the parent statute.

 Supply of ocean freight service is not covered either by Section 7 (inter-state supply) or Section 8 (intra-state supply) of the IGST Act. The Act does not contemplate levy or collection of tax from a person who is neither the supplier nor the recipient of supply.

A person other than a recipient cannot determine the “time of supply” as per the provisions of Section 13 of the IGST Act. In addition to this, Input Tax Credit can only be availed by the recipient of the supply which are intended to be used in the course of furtherance of business, under the provisions of Section 16 of the Act.

 The Supreme Court in case of State of Rajasthan v. Basant Agrotech (India) Limited [2014 (302) E.L.T. 3 (SC)], held that the rule of construction of a charging section is that before taxing any person, it must be shown that he falls within the ambit of the charging section by clear words used in the section. No one can be taxed by implication. A charging section has to be constructed strictly. If a person has not been brought within the ambit of the charging section by clear words, he cannot be taxed at all.

Commissioner of Central Excise v. Acer India Limited [2004 (172) E.L.T. 289 (S.C.)], the SC held – “The intention of the legislature in a taxation statute is to be gathered from the language of the provisions particularly where the language is plain and unambiguous. In a taxing Act it is not possible to assume any intention or governing purpose of the statute more than what is stated in the plain language. It is not the economic result sought to be obtained by making the provision which is relevant in interpreting a fiscal statute. Equally impermissible is an interpretation which does not follow from the plan, unambiguous language of the statute. Words cannot be added to or substituted so as to give a meaning to the statute which will serve the spirit and intention of the legislature. The statute should clearly and unambiguously convey the three components of the tax law i.e. the subject of the tax, the person who is liable to pay the tax and the rate at which the tax is to be paid. If there is any ambiguity regarding any of these ingredients in a taxation statute, then there is no tax in law.”

The Hon’ble Gujarat High Court in the case of Mohit Minerals Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Union of India [Special Civil Application No. 726 of 2018], has set aside IGST on Ocean Freight and held that no tax is leviable under the IGST Act, 2017 on the ocean freight for the services provided by a person located in a non-taxable territory by way of transportation of goods by a vessel from a place outside India up to the customs station of clearance in India and the levy and collection of tax of such ocean freight under the impugned Notifications is not permissible in law and that taxing ocean freight is ultra vires and leads to double taxation.

Despite the attempts of the judiciary in defending the very concept of negating any occurrence of double taxation, the efforts made to amend the imprudent levy of IGST on ocean freight, or so to say, the lack thereof, is still very unsettling.

A person other than a recipient cannot determine the “time of supply” as per the provisions of Section 13 of the IGST Act. In addition to this, Input Tax Credit can only be availed by the recipient of the supply which are intended to be used in the course of furtherance of business, under the provisions of Section 16 of the Act.

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Policy & Politics

NCRTC SIGNS MOU WITH SECL FOR USING BLENDED RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR ITS DELHI-GHAZIABAD-MEERUT RRTS CORRIDOR

Tarun Nangia

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In line with its vision to improve the quality of life of people, National Capital Regional Transport Corporation (NCRTC) has signed MoU with SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India) today to harness blended renewable energy for RRTS. MOU has provisions to explore possible opportunities in electric/ transformative mobility, Hydrogen based economy, and other alternative sources of fuels and energy.

MoU was signed in presence of Jatindra Nath Swain IAS, Secretary (Fisheries), GOI & CMD/SECI, Vinay Kumar Singh, Managing Director/NCRTC and Mahendra Kumar, Director(E&RS)/NCRTC alongwith other senior officials of NCRTC and SECI.

NCRTC, as part of its Energy Management Policy, intends to maximize the use of blended renewable energy such as solar power etc. for meeting full energy requirement of NCRTC. SECI, being an industry leader, will help in arranging blended renewable energy to NCRTC round the clock at affordable rates for Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Corridor and cooperation to extend the same for other future corridors.

Use of clean energy, through this association will ensure reduction in expenditure on electricity and significantly lesser CO2 emissions, which is essential for sustainable development.

This cooperation is a part of NCRTC’s long term strategy to make RRTS and NCRTC financially as well as environmentally sustainable.

NCRTC is adopting following measures also for energy efficiency in India’s first RRTS corridor-

1. All elevated RRTS stations and depots will be provided with solar panels.

2. NCRTC is targeting to generate minimum 10 MW renewable energy.

3. 40% of the total energy requirement of Delhi Meerut RRTS corridor is targeted to be procured/generated from renewable energy.

4. RRTS rolling stock will be provided with state-of-the-art regenerative braking system which converts train’s kinetic energy into electrical energy..

5. Regenerative braking will result in reduced wear and tear of wheels, brake pads and other associated moving brake-gear parts of rolling stock resulting in significantly less consumption of these spare part/items during train maintenance life cycle which again will result in substantial reduction in CO2 emission which otherwise would have been generated in the manufacturing and supply chain process of these spare parts/items.

6. RRTS trains will have push buttons for selective opening of doors on need basis. This eliminates the requirement of opening all doors at every station, thus leading to energy saving. RRTS rolling stock will have lighting and temperature control systems to enhance the passenger experience with less energy consumption.

7. All RRTS station and their premises, depot, office spaces and trains will be equipped with energy-saving LED lights.

8. Platform Screen Doors will be installed at every RRTS stations that will help in saving significant energy consumption in underground stations.

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Policy & Politics

TARGETED POLICY SUPPORT TO ENGINEERING EXPORT SECTOR NEEDED, SAYS EEPC INDIA

Tarun Nangia

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The growth in outbound shipments has been robust in the last few months and the outlook remains positive for the current year but rising cost of key raw materials especially steel is an area of concern, said EEPC India Chairman Mr Mahesh Desai.

As expected, the value of engineering goods exports jumped 53% to US$ 8.64 billion in May, 2021 as against US$ 5.65 billion in the corresponding month last year primarily due to low base effect and increasing demand from key markets.

“Soaring prices of various metals is a big challenge for the engineering goods manufacturers which were badly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdowns,” he said.

While hoping that the rates for the export promotion scheme RoDTEP would be announced shortly, the EEPC India Chairman expects the government to provide more targeted support as suggested by the RBI.

Announcing the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on June 4, RBI Governor Mr Shaktikanta Das had said that conducive external conditions were forming for a durable recovery beyond pre-pandemic levels. He further said that the need of the hour is for enhanced and targeted policy support for exports.

EEPC India Chairman said that while the export outlook has been projected to be positive in the current fiscal, there were downside risks too given that public health experts have predicted a possible third wave of the pandemic.

“The efforts must be made now to minimise the impact of pandemic on trade and business as protecting livelihood is no less important than lives. The plans should be in place to ensure goods movement, especially export consignments, are not affected by lockdowns, night curfews or any other restrictions imposed by states to prevent the spread of virus,” Mr Desai said.

Announcing the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on 4 June, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that conducive external conditions were forming for a durable recovery beyond pre-pandemic levels.

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Policy & Politics

India’s exports continue to perform impressively for third month in a row

FIEO president reiterated that though the government has announced a slew of measures to support exports, the need of the hour is to soon notify the RoDTEP rates to remove uncertainty from the minds of the trade and industry, thereby helping in further forging new contracts with the foreigner buyers.

Tarun Nangia

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Responding to the trade data for May, 2021, Sharad Kumar Saraf, President, FIEO said that the continuing impressive growth in exports by about 70% to USD 32.27 billion compared to a low base of USD 19.05 billion during May 2020, reiterate our assessment that order booking position of our exporters is not only extremely good but also the gradual opening up of major global markets and improvement of situation in the country is expected to push exports growth further. President FIEO said that growing by over 8% even on the base of May 2019 reflects a positive trend for the sector. Saraf particularly emphasised that the growth in labour-intensive sectors like Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item, Gems & Jewellery, Engineering goods, Leather and Leather Products, Ceramic products and glassware, Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products, Marine products, Spices, Carpets and Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. augurs well for the job scenario, which is most relevant in the current context.

FIEO Chief added that such a growth during the month has been mainly on account of growth in Petroleum products, Engineering goods, Organic & Inorganic Chemicals and Gems & Jewellery, the major contributors to the country’s export basket, which have shown impressive performance compared to May, 2020. He also said that 25 out of 30 major product groups of exports have either shown a very high growth or are in positive territory defying all the odds when there is still a bit of scepticism persisting in the global economy on the expectation of a third wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

Sharad Kumar Saraf further reiterated that continuing on with such a growth performance in exports during the second month of the new financial year not only shows signs of resilience of the exporting community facing squeezing profits but also the resolve of the government. FIEO Chief complimented the government for its continuous support during such challenging times. Increase in May 2021 imports by about 74 percent to USD 38.55 billion compared to the same period during the previous fiscal led to the increase in trade deficit of USD 6.28 billion, which is an increase of over 99.61 percent during the month and should be looked into.

FIEO President reiterated that though the government has announced a slew of measures to support exports, the need of the hour is to soon notify the RoDTEP rates to remove uncertainty from the minds of the trade and industry thereby helping in further forging new contracts with the foreigner buyers. Mr Saraf also reiterated that the government must address some of the key issues including priority status to exports sector, extension of Interest Equalisation Scheme beyond June 2021 till at least 31st March, 2024, release of the necessary funds for MEIS and clarity on SEIS benefits, resolving risky exporters’ issues and continuance of seamless refund of IGST and more importantly continuing with IGST option for exports to further give boost to the sector during these challenging times.

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Making it happen: Covid management in Sonipat

Imaginative planning, meticulous execution and untiring efforts by young IAS officer Shyam Lal Poonia and his team have helped the district sail through the second wave.

Anil Swarup

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Corona

Like many regions of the country, the second wave of the Covid hit the district of Sonipat (adjoining Delhi) really hard with the positivity rate reaching a high of 54.71% on 25 April 2021. With the second wave came different sorts of challenges of which oxygen supply was most critical, given the non-existent perennial supply system for the hospitals including the 500-bedded Medical College at Khanpur Kalan. 

The challenge of medical oxygen was altogether new for Sonipat like many other districts in the country. This, coupled with close to 60% patients coming from Delhi, led to quick saturation of bed capacity in Covid hospitals of the district by 25 April 2021. Consequently, a dual challenge of increasing oxygen beds on one hand and managing oxygen demand within the available quota on the other was faced. As on 24th April, the district was receiving a daily quota of 9 MT liquid oxygen. To add to the worries, the agency responsible for supplying around 4 MT daily oxygen to Medical College had pulled out. As the state allocated oxygen quota was being determined elsewhere, the focus was on mobilization of resources and managing within this quota for which the following line of action was undertaken: 

PSA Plant: A 200 LPM capacity PSA plant approved under PM Cares Fund was lying idle since February as the Agency didn’t install it and district health team didn’t realise its importance. With the help of one Prof. Jogendra from Pacific College, Sonipat, PSA oxygen plant was commissioned at Civil Hospital Sonipat on 30th April. This helped increase the number of oxygen beds at Civil hospital.  

Oxygen Audit: Nodal officer was appointed for oxygen supply and officers were positioned at each of the bottling plants and hospitals. A multi-pronged approach was adopted to prevent wastage and siphoning off of medical oxygen at bottling plants and in hospitals.  A formula was put in placeabout average consumption on the basis of guidelines issued by MoFHW. Accordingly, average consumption in all hospitals was calculated. A committee was also constituted for oxygen consumption audit in all hospitals. Quota was now being allocated to hospitals based on their patient load. These steps helped save 2-3 MT of LMO per day.  This resulted in the increase of oxygen beds from 605 to 791 by 1st May. Moreover, the district quota was increased to 13 MT on 2nd May by the Government which helped further increasing the number of oxygen beds to 950 including 90 ventilators.

Augmenting Oxygen Storage: By end of April, 2021, the district had only one Bottling Plant with storage capacity of 20 MT which was catering to more than 25 hospitals. Through concerted efforts two more bottling plants licenses were facilitated for medical oxygen and a storage capacity of 50 MT was added within 15 days.

LMO Tank at BPS Government Medical College, Khanpur: With a daily oxygen demand of more than 450 D-Type cylinders, the Medical College was the major consumer for oxygen in the district. With every passing day and increase in patient load, it was becoming difficult to maintain regular supplies through cylinders. With the help of one of the Bottling Plants, an LMO storage tank with 12 MT capacity was installed within a week at BPSGMC. This gave a major boost to oxygen supply at the Medical College and the number of oxygen-supported beds increased from 150 to 350. This also resolved issues related to oxygen flow pressure and refilling and transportation of oxygen cylinders.

PSA Plant at BPSGMC: To further augment oxygen availability in the district and to tackle any unforeseen situation in days to come, a PSA oxygen generation plant under CSR has been installed at Govt Medical College, Khanpur with a capacity of 1000 LPM. Installation of one more PSA Plant with 1000 LPM capacity by DRDO is under progress.

At one point in time, the district had more than 7000 active cases and 90% of them were under home isolation spread across the geography of the district. To monitor them on a regular basis was a challenge given the inadequate manpower in the field. 

With the support from young MBBS/PG medical students from BPS Medical College, a motto  – Chase The Patient – was coined. Tele-consultation services were provided for all home isolated patients. 120 PG students of the Medical College were engaged to monitor all the home isolated patients of the district. The students were divided into 15 area-wise teams, each team connected with their respective Community Health Centre (CHCs) and Urban Health Centres (UHCs). 

A team of IMA doctors was roped in which constantly supported patients with their COVID treatment, psycho-social care and post COVID recovery issues. Timely tele-consultation meant that scores of patients were provided early medical care and prevented from being hospitalized.

Even as oxygen bed capacity was being increased across the district, it was observed that admission in COVID facilities was leading to disconnection of patients with their family members, due to restrictions. This was especially true for those not possessing smart phones. Covid treatment protocols couldn’t be violated. However, families were especially feeling anxious to talk to patients and know their health status. The District Administration accordingly initiated e-Samvaad wherein 6 tablets have been provided to Civil Hospital, Sonipat and BPS Govt Medical College to facilitate interaction of admitted patients with their family members. During a fixed time slot, the attendant/ family members can now interact with their patient on video call through WhatsApp/ Google Meet/ Zoom. The Nursing Staff dedicates themselves for this purpose in the given time slot. 

Given the exponential rise in cases across Sonipat, it was important to set up a central COVID Control Room to address all citizen queries and to manage the situation on-ground.  A team of 40 teachers and operators was trained to work round the clock in three shifts. Dedicated helpline catering to all citizen queries around vaccination, testing, bed availability, oxygen cylinders, movement passes and for lodging complaints against black marketing, overcharging, were made operational.

Imaginative planning, meticulous execution and untiring efforts by this young IAS officer, Shyam Lal Poonia and his team have helped the district sail through the second wave. Positivity rate is now below 2% and hospital bed occupancy is less than 20%. They made it happen amidst trying set of circumstances. 

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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