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Gum and stick

D. Murali

POST-It memos demand attention and that is what they did when the Birla 3M case was posted for hearing at the Bangalore CEGAT recently. The confusion was whether the memos were to be classified as articles of stationery as Birla wanted, or as `gummed or adhesive paper or paper board', a classification sought by the Excise authorities.

At the Tribunal, the company submitted that the memos were used for posting notes, messages, artwork, and so on. It relied on an apex court ruling in the Atul Glass case which had focussed on ``a mental association in the mind of the customer between the article and the need it supplies in his life''.

Popular sense was important, contended Birla.

But the CE officials had examined the product and found that to be ``a gummed or adhesive paper/paper board having arrangements on the other side to stick it on to a plain surface of a wall, cupboard and so on, which is packed inside an envelope with a w indow'' and that ``memos on paper notices could be stuck on the gummed/adhesive surface which faces the viewer.'' The function was, therefore, that of a bulletin/notice board, they argued.

Mr S. S. Sekhon, Tribunal member, observed that no typing could be done on the memos and ruled in favour of the Department since ``by no stretch of imagination Post-It could be called an article of stationery.''

It needs a learned to appreciate the meaning of stationery.

Light bluff

PFIZER Ltd had to labour at the Mumbai CEGAT, trying to defend itself against the Customs Department for a mis-declaration. The company had sought clearance at the Sahar airport for what it called `promotional matter' -- a classification that is availabl e for printed books and other such matter. However, when the Customs checked the consignment, declared by the company as of value Rs 500, it was found the goods were, in fact, light pointers -- ``something in the nature of electric torches used to point to particular objects on a screen in the course of lectures or audio-visual presentations.''

Pfizer submitted that the goods had been consigned by Pfizer Inc of the US, ``to be distributed as promotional material to members of the medical professionals.'' And that ``the importer had no idea what the goods were.''

But Mr Gowri Shankar, Tribunal member, called the bluff: ``The contention of the importer that it did not know what the goods were is entirely unacceptable. The airway bill for the consignment described the goods as `promotional matter, light pointer'.'' Then came his scolding of the Custom House agent (CHA), Pan Oceanic & Forwarding Services: ``The CHA has acted with a high degree of irresponsibility. Any responsible CHA would have indicated the value to be unknown and asked for examination of the good s. That a professional who is expected to use his special skill in carrying technical work would behave with such utter disregard to the procedure and law is astonishing.''

One hopes Pfizer packs the right things in their products.

Opinion shopping

SMUGGLING betel nuts may be difficult; but more difficult is when the Customs Department has to prove that. The Dinanath Maurya case, which came up before the Kolkata CEGAT, is an illustration of such plight. When the Customs intercepted two trucks in Go rakhpur, they found 455 bags of betel nuts. Same day, the Customs sought the opinion of two traders in Gorakhpur, and their opinion was that the nuts ``appeared to be of foreign origin''.

Subsequently, however, these traders denied having given any such opinion. So, after 45 days of seizure, the officers drew fresh samples and went to Varanasi to obtain fresh opinion from two other traders there.

Dinanath's counsel argued at the CEGAT that the goods were from Assam and not Burma, as the Customs opined. ``Betel nuts are produced abundantly in Assam and neighbouring States. Since it is an agricultural product it is impossible to ascertain the count ry of origin by mere visual examination,'' he said.

Ms Archana Wadhwa, Tribunal member, observed: ``The Revenue is required to produce positive and affirmative evidence showing illegal import of the goods.''

A nuts pilgrimage that went nuts.

*********

Tailpiece

``The FM should resign for the US-64 problem!''

``What did he do when he went to the US in 1964?''

(e-mail: dmurali@thehindu.co.in)

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