This is a poster seen prominently displayed on the Official Facebook Page of the Principal Commissionerate of Customs, Chattrapathi Shivaji International Airport, Sahar, Mumbai on 10-09-2016 and the headline warns the departing passengers as below:
“Attention passengers in departure. Please follow the directions when leaving the country. In case of any doubt please connect to us at 022-26828719 or 022-66850857 and in departure at 022-66850959/63. Jai Hind.”
Since I have not come across any such rule or regulations or notification stipulating a declaration of foreign currency carried by the passengers leaving the country, I have made a comment on this post as:
“Foreign currency declaration on departure? What is the authority? Any new Law? Pl clarify”
Reply came the next day itself, I must say though it was a holiday, as below:
“Hello Vasudevan MP as mentioned in post, above $ 5000 kindly declare to customs in departure and limit to Indian rupees which a passenger can carry is INR 25000. These limits are decided by the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India. Thanks.”
The comments on the said post advanced further and the handler advised me to check the links shown below for clarification of my doubt/query.
The first link took me to the “Customs Guide for Travellers” exhibited on the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC)’s official website. The document contained nothing on the issue of declaration of foreign currency for a departure passenger. Incidentally, the said document clearly displayed that it was valid as on 01-04-2014 and was based on the Baggage Rules, 1998 while the currently valid Baggage Rules were notified in 2016 (notification No. 30/2016-Customs (N.T.) dated 01-03-2016 which stood amended vide notification No. 43/2016-Customs (N.T.) dated 31-03-2016 and corrected vide corrigendum F.No. 520/09/2016-Cus.VI dated 01-04-2016). The FB handler forgot even this basic fact while directing me there!
The second one lead me to the “Foreign Exchange Management (Export and Import of Currency) Regulations, 2015” on the official website of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This document also has no such direction on the declaration of foreign currency being exported by a passenger.
What the Law says?
Coming to the issue of declaration of foreign currency by a departing passenger, it is seen that the export and import of currency is regulated under the Foreign Exchange Management (Export and Import of Currency) Regulations, 2015 notified by the RBI in exercise of the powers conferred on them by clause (g) of sub-section (3) of section 6 and sub-section (2) of section 47 of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (42 of 1999) [notification No. FEMA 6(R)/RB-2015 dated 29-12-2015].
It is seen that clause 6 of the Foreign Exchange Management (Export and Import of Currency) Regulations, 2015 regulates the import of foreign currency and requires a declaration if it is above a threshold limit. However, there is no such stipulation or requirement under clause 7 which controls the export thereof. The relevant clauses are reproduced thus:
“6. Import of foreign exchange into India:-
A person may –
(b) bring into India from any place outside India without limit foreign exchange (other than unissued notes),
provided that bringing of foreign exchange into India under clause (b) shall be subject to the condition that such person makes, on arrival in India, a declaration to the Custom authorities in Currency Declaration Form (CDF) annexed to these Regulations;
provided further that it shall not be necessary to make such declaration where the aggregate value of the foreign exchange in the form of currency notes, bank notes or traveller's cheques brought in by such person at any one time does not exceed US$10,000 (US Dollars ten thousands) or its equivalent and/or the aggregate value of foreign currency notes brought in by such person at any one time does not exceed US$ 5,000 (US Dollars five thousands) or its equivalent.
7. Export of foreign exchange and currency notes:-
(2) Any person may take or send out of India, -
(b) foreign exchange obtained by him by drawal from an authorised person in accordance with the provisions of the Act or the rules or regulations or directions made or issued thereunder;
(3) Any person may take out of India, -
(a) foreign exchange possessed by him in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Management (Possession and Retention of Foreign Currency) Regulations, 2015;
(b) unspent foreign exchange brought back by him to India while returning from travel abroad and retained in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Management (Possession and Retention of Foreign Currency) Regulations, 2015;
(4) Any person resident outside India may take out of India unspent foreign exchange not exceeding the amount brought in by him and declared in accordance with the proviso to clause (b) of Regulation 6, on his arrival in India.”
In short, the said Regulations effectively allow any person (say any passenger) to take out of India any amount of foreign exchange obtained by him by drawal from an authorised person in accordance with the provisions of the Act or the Rules or Regulations; any amount of foreign exchange possessed by him in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Management (Possession and Retention of Foreign Currency) Regulations, 2015; any amount of unspent foreign exchange brought back by him to India while returning from travel abroad and retained by him in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Management (Possession and Retention of Foreign Currency) Regulations, 2015; and any person resident outside India (say Non-Resident Indian or foreigner) the unspent foreign exchange not exceeding the amount brought in by him and declared in accordance with the proviso to clause (b) of Regulation 6, on his arrival in India. The Regulations thus permit export of any amount of foreign exchange that is legally acquired by the passenger. Further, while the proviso under clause 6 of the Regulation demands declaration of foreign exchange above a threshold limit on import, the clause 7 is silent about any declaration on export of it.
What is the Practice?
The scheme of clearance of passengers in vogue for many decades at the International Airports of India doesn’t show such a procedure or practice of declaration of foreign currency by a departing passenger. While on the arrival side, i.e. import of passengers’ baggage, clearance is regulated under the Baggage Rules, currently the Baggage Rules, 2016 and further fortified with the Customs Baggage Declaration Regulations, 2013 prescribing Form-I for the declaration of the passengers’ baggage [notification No. 90/2013-Customs (N.T.) dated 29-08-2013]. In addition, there exists a system of ‘Green’ and ‘Red’ channels for fast clearance, etc. There are counters earmarked for the declaration of foreign currency also in the Arrival Hall. In contra on the departure side, i.e. export of passengers’ baggage, there is neither any notified Baggage Rules nor any procedure for declaration of the contents of the baggage by the passengers or clearance of each and every passenger by the Proper Officer. The customs clearance by the customs Officers by stamping the stub of the Airline Boarding Card of the passenger which was introduced vide Ministry’s letter F.No. 481/34/75-Cus.VII, dated 20-10-1975 and the Customs Desk at the departure hall was replaced by a ‘Facilitation Desk’ vide the Board’s letter F.No. 520/32/2004-Cus.VI, dated 16-05-2005. Thereafter, this facilitation desk having just one or two officers deals with the issuance of export certificates for high valued items being exported by the passengers and meant to be re-imported, in case, a passenger approaches them.
It is seen that this poster displayed on the official Facebook page has already been shared more than 300 times. It may also become viral and spread to other International Airport. It would be prudent to remove this baseless and illegal warning on the social media before it is too late. The page may also be handled by sufficiently senior Officers to avoid such slipups.