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Saturday, Jan 05, 2002

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Chipped truths

D. Murali

THE Mumbai CEGAT was kept occupied with potato chips when the Indian Organic Chemicals case came up for hearing. The dispute was on how the chips were manufactured. While the company claimed that its product was made by dehydration (which did not amount to manufacture), the CE Department had a different view on the matter.

During the hearing, Mr Gowri Shankar, Tribunal member, repeatedly asked Mr K. K. Shroff, the company's counsel, whether the process of making potato chips involved only dehydration. "He said the matter is very old and since the concerned unit is closed, the manufacturing process would not be available."

A few paragraphs later, the ruling observes how the company "tried to mislead the Department by feeding half-truths to it and emphasising that the manufacture involved only dehydration".

Quite a dehydrating decision for the company.

Air trash

TAJ Air Caterers had to go to the Mumbai CEGAT in connection with a smuggling case. Brief facts are: The company operates a flight kitchen at Sahar International Airport to supply food and other provisions to aircraft. This involves traffic in both men and materials between the flight kitchen and the aircraft parked in the airport. Meals and other provisions are loaded on board the aircraft before take-off; after arrival, goods such as discarded items, unconsumed meals, garbage and so on are removed from the aircraft and brought to the flight kitchen. About a decade ago, when a Cathay Pacific flight arrived from Hong Kong, a high-lift truck was, as done usually, raised to the level of aircraft and garbage transferred from the aircraft to the high-lift. Acting on a tip-off, the Customs officials examined the trash and found a bag containing 22 bars of gold weighing about 4 kg. The Department seized the gold as well as the truck. Taj appealed against the confiscation of the truck.

The Tribunal considered what alternative would have been available to Taj when the aircraft arrived at the airport: Taj's security staff could rummage through every piece of equipment or garbage before transferring the same from the aircraft to the truck. But that would be impractical. "Aircraft are parked in the landing bay after their arrival only for a short period. Thorough examination and rummaging of all the goods that are unloaded from an aircraft would clutter the airport area, causing obstruction to arriving and departing aircraft," observed Mr Gowri Shankar and ruled, "we do not find a case for confiscating the truck."

A case that began and ended in trash.

Tailpiece

"Tell me whether there is any tax exemption for putting up statues and... "

"And?"

"A weighted exemption for removing them."

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