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Saturday, September 15, 2001

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Dead ship

D. Murali

EXCISE officials are known to pursue their targets even if they be sunken ships on seabeds, as the New Pasta Traders case would show. About 15 years back, M. V. Shanta Bhibani came into Sikka jetty, after discharging cargo at Kandla. It suffered engine t rouble, caught fire, collided against another ship, and got grounded. When the Gujarat Maritime Board auctioned her, to recover port dues, Pasta purchased it for breaking up.

The central issue in the case related to the quantum of LDT (light displacement tonnage), the basis for levy.

Pasta got a survey report from Poseidon Marine Services, a marine surveyor in Jamnagar, which estimated the LDT to be 2005 MTs. Poseidon's report, however, stated that ``in the absence of drawings, plans and records, it was not possible to arrive at an a ccurate assessment of LDT of an old broken-down, grounded and stranded vessel''. The Department chose not to accept the report and sought the services of ABS Pacific, a division of the American Bureau of Shipping, which informed the CE Superintendent tha t LDT of Bhibani, as ascertained from 1985 records, was 6153 MTs.

The Mumbai CEGAT took a practical view of the matter. Mr Gowri Shankar, Tribunal member, said: ``Even if we accept the ABS report, the permissible abatement would have to considered in determining the duty payable. To determine the extent of damage the r eport of Poseidon has to be given due weightage.''

The CE appeal, therefore, got dismissed, sinking the hopes of the Department to recover duty at Rs 800 on the extra 4000-odd MTs.

Ashram abuse

YOGA may be performed through different postures. But when Dhirendra Brahmachari (DB), founder-president of Aparna Ashram, used his ashram's photographic equipment to produce TV commercials in Aparna Studio, the Customs Department adopted a tough posture .

According to the Department, DB had imported the equipment, duty-free, ``for making films/videos on yoga activities with the stated purpose of research and propagation of yoga''. DB had the studio too in the same premises as the Ashram and utilised it fo r making yogic videos. The studio, in turn, offered the services of ``multi-camera, sound and recording equipment together with its full complement of facilities'' to TV serial producers and entered into agreements with Mr Sidarth Basu (India Quiz), Ms S hobha Doctor (Hum Log), Vipin Handa (Amne Samne) and Mahmood Quereshi (Leher Leher Sangeet).

The studio had never imported any of its equipment since they were all the ashram's, averred the Department at the New Delhi CEGAT. DB too had stated that the equipment was used by the studio ``for making other types of films'' too. A subsequent statemen t of DB that ``equipment imported by ashram was used only for research purpose in yoga and equipment of Indian origin which were lying in the studio were used for making other types of films'' was dismissed by the Tribunal as ``nothing but an afterthough t''.

It didn't need a long meditation for the CEGAT to rule in favour of the Revenue. A case of yogic side-effect for DB.

Masala mix

WHEN Jalani Enterprises approached the Delhi CEGAT, the problem was about a digestive, jaljira. The company manufactured jaljira using salt, kalanamak, citric acid, sonth, kalimirch, pudhina, hing, jira and lalmirch. When it wanted to call its product a `spice', the CE Department could not digest the classification.

What the CE preferred was the heading relating to `preparations for human consumption' since spices are mainly used as condiments and commonly known as masalas. ``The product jaljira is used only as a cold drink after addition of water. By merely printin g the word masala on the packing, it did not become a masala. The product is also not known in the market as masala but as a drink which could be taken by mixing in water. Even on the packing the company had shown a glass of water containing jaljira,'' a rgued the Department.

The Tribunal ruled that jaljira, ``although prepared by adding some spices, cannot be logically said to be masala''.

This could dispel a myth -- that you can make a masala of almost anything.

*********

Tailpiece

``I used to think that not paying taxes was a big sin!''

``Till you saw the terrorist-attack?''

``No, till I met my tax adviser.''

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

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