The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has come out with detailed guidelines on arrest and bail procedures for offences that have been recently made punishable under Customs and Central Excise Act.
This follows as the Union Budget has made all offenses cognizable where a first information report (FIR) can be filed and arrests may be done depending on the whether the offenses are bailable or non-bailable. In bailable offense, bail is a mandatory right after getting arrested whereas in non bailable offense it depends on the discretion of the magistrate to grant bail or not.
In the last budget, duty evasion or related issues have been classified as cognizable at par with regulations in the United States where tax evasion is treated as punishable crime.
According to officials these guidelines have been released to prevent misuse of power conferred on customs and central excise officials under the relevant Acts at par with the police under Criminal Procedure Code.
Every case of arrest has to be intimated to the jurisdictional Chief Commissioner or Director General of Revenue Intelligence (DGRI) or concerned member within 24 hours of such information.
Under Customs Act, offenses classified as non bailable are evasion or attempted evasion of duty exceeding Rs 50 lakh , dealing in prohibited goods, undeclared items with market price worth Rs 1 crore or fraudently availing drawback or exemption exceeding 50 lakh.
Similar offenses as non bailable under Central Excise Act
are clandestine removal of manufactured goods, removal of goods without declaring assessable value, taking cenvat credit without receiving goods or fake invoices, or issuing cenvat invoices without delivering the goods.
Under the guidelines, the conditions for which an arrest has to be made are ensuring proper investigation, prevent person from absconding, case involving organized smuggling, masterminding proxy, benami, imports/ exports. Under bailable offense, arrest will be done under exceptional circumstances going by the nature of offense, role of person and evidence.
It has also stated that for bailable offence, arrests will be affected if there is outright smuggling of precious metals, restricted items or other value goods or import of trade goods including mis-declaration of goods, concealment. The arrest procedure and arrest memo have to be prepared as procedures of Criminal Code based on Supreme Court guidelines laid out in the case of D K Basu Vs State of West Bengal.