1. The revision application filed before the Central Government against the Order No. 314 of 1990, dated 24-4-1980 passed by the Central Board of Excise and Customs, statutorily stood transferred to the Tribunal for being heard as an appeal.
2. The appellant by a telegram sought for an adjournment on the ground that due to election he could not come today. After going through the records, I did not consider it necessary to grant an adjournment sought for. Heard Shri Krishan Kumar.
The appellant holding Indian Passport arrived at Bombay airport on 3-5-1978 from Dubai after a stay of one year and 4 months. He made a declaration before the Customs that he had two gold bars and four gold sovereigns which he had brought to make ornaments and take them back on his departure from India. He also produced them before the Baggage Officer. In his statement recorded on 3-5-1978, among other things the appellant stated that the said gold bars and coins imported by him were given to him by his sister for converting them into ornaments and for taking the said ornaments back to Dubai. The Custom Authorities, however, were of the view that the gold bars and gold coins were liable for confiscation as the import without the permission of the Reserve Bank of India violated the provisions of Foreign Exchange Regulations Act.
4. During the personal hearing before the Additional Collector, the appellant appeared to have stated that he had brought the gold for making ornaments to his sister's daughter. He brought it because he was told by another passenger in Saudi Arabia that he had taken gold and brought back the jewellery. He further stated that if he cannot be permitted to convert the gold into ornaments, he may be permitted to take it back during his return journey. The Additional Collector did not accede to the request on the ground that the gold was brought for conversion into jewellery for another person, viz. niece and he, therefore, ordered absolute confiscation of the two gold bars and four gold sovereigns collectively valued at Rs. 11.946/- under Section 111(d) of the Customs Act, 1962. On appeal, the Board held that even though the appellant had made a true declaration, the gold could not be treated as the items of his bona fide baggage, and as such, Section 80 of the Customs Act is not applicable. In that view of the matter the Board confirmed the order passed by the Additional Collector. The legality of the order passed by the Board is challenged in the revision application. The question for consideration is whether the view taken by the Board is illegal or not in accordance with law. Admittedly, the gold was brought as baggage by the appellant. He made a true declaration. On coming to know that he cannot be allowed to clear, he requested for detention of the gold for the purpose of taking it back to Dubai. The authorities below were of the opinion that such a request cannot be granted, because the appellant had brought the gold for preparing jewels for his niece. They were of the opinion that it is not the bona fide baggage of the appellant. The view taken by the Additional Collector as well as the Board that the baggage is not a bona fide baggage appears to be not correct. The Baggage Rules permits bringing of items of personal effects and household effects. Therefore, strictly the goods would not be covered by the Baggage Rules. The expression 'Baggage' is defined in Section 2, Sub-section (3) of the Customs Act and that definition reads 'baggage includes unaccompanied baggage but does not include motor vehicles'. As the definition stands other than motor vehicles, the baggage could include any other item.
Section 77 requires 'the owner of the baggage to make a declaration of its contents to the proper officer'. Section 80 reads : 'where the baggage of a passenger contains any article which is dutiable or the import of which is prohibited and in respect of which a true declaration has been made under Section 77, the proper officer, may, at the request of the passenger, detain such article for the purpose of being returned to him on leaving India'. Neither Section 77 nor Section 80 speaks of bona fide baggage. The bona fide baggage comes into picture only for the purpose of claiming free allowance. As a matter of fact the expression 'baggage' is interpreted to mean 'luggage'. It permits temporary detention of baggage at the request of the passenger of the goods which are dutiable, and the import of which are prohibited provided a true declaration had been made. In the circumstances, and having regard to the fact that there was a true declaration and also the request for detention, the authorities below have committed an error in law in holding that the appellant was not entitled for detention of gold which he had brought. I, therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the orders passed by the authorities below and direct that the gold be returned to the appellant for taking back with him when he leaves India. The appellant shall exercise this right of taking back from India within a period of 2 months from the date of communication of this order.