This is about a story going around claiming that Mr. Virat Kohli and Ms. Anushka Sharma's wedding in Italy was a fairy tale romance and the guests couldn't take their eyes off Ms. Anushka's huge wedding ring. The report, adding more spice, states that Mr. Virat Kohli took three months to zero in on the perfect wedding ring for the love of his life which is a very rare diamond ring specially crafted by an ace designer from Austria costing about Rs. 1 crore but it's worth the money because whoever would see it, definitely wouldn't be able to take their eyes off it (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/virat-kohli-anushka-sharma-wedding-ring-cost-italy-borgo-finocchieto/1/1108345.html).
The netizens now started speculating whether the ring and other jewellery would be allowed free of duty under the Baggage Rules, 2016 as ‘personal effects’ by the customs when they arrive in India or whether the couple had carried the jewellery from India on proper ‘export certificates’.
Before expressing any opinion on this issue we may discuss another old story dating back to 2011. It was a very hot news then that the actress Ms. Anushka Sharma was stopped by the customs officials at the International Airport at Mumbai for carrying costly watches and diamond studded jewellery. It was also reported that the 23-year old actress was returning from IIFA award ceremony in Toronto and landed at the airport at 2.30 pm on the 27th June, 2011 from Toronto via Singapore when she was stopped while passing through the green channel. During the clearance of her accompanied baggage, gold and diamond-studded jewellery worth about Rs. 40 lakh was found in her possession. It was later claimed to have been carried by the actress while going abroad and hence not dutiable. It was also asserted that she was carrying these accessories given to her by various brands for show casing at the IIFA ceremony and the brands concerned would produce the documents (confirming the ownership of the jewellery) and clear them from the customs (http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/anushka-sharma-stopped-at-airport-by-customs/809416/).
The customs case was that on 27.06.2011, Ms. Anushka Sharma arrived at Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai from Toronto by Air India flight No. AI-188 and was intercepted on suspicion by the customs Officers after she cleared herself through the ‘Green Channel’. Examination of her baggage resulted in the recovery of two wrist watches and assorted studded gold jewellery collectively valued at Rs. 34,71,700/- (CIF). After completion of detailed investigations an SCN was issued. The case was later adjudicated by the Joint Commissioner of Customs (Airport) who ordered confiscation of the goods under section 111(l) and (m) of the Customs Act, 1962 with an option of redemption on fine of Rs. 3,50,000/-. A penalty of Rs. 1,00,000/- was also imposed on the actress under section 112(a) of the ibid Act.
Aggrieved by the said adjudication order Ms. Anushka Sharma had filed an appeal before the Commissioner (Appeals), Mumbai on the grounds -
(i) that the jewellery and wrist watches were taken by her from India on her departure to Toronto for wearing them during the IIFA award ceremony and belonged to some jewellers in India and that since it was a case of re-import, the goods were not liable to duty or declaration and hence they cannot be confiscated under section 111(l) and (m) of the Customs Act, 1962;
(ii) that no duty was payable on the goods under rule 3 of the Baggage Rules, 1998 as the they were used personal effects required for satisfying the daily necessities of life;
(iii) that no duty was payable on the jewellery as they were of Indian origin and in view of the notification No. 94/96-Cus. no duty was payable;
(iv) that since the goods were not declared, the confiscation under section 111(m) on account of non-tallying with the declaration was not proper and section 111(l) would not attract as the goods were given by the dealers and jewellers for wearing during IIFA award ceremony at Toronto;
(v) that the evidences on record were not considered by the Adjudicating Authority while deciding the case and the finding that the wrist watches imported were different from those supplied to her was contrary to the records;
(vi) that no penalty was imposable since there was no column on the baggage declaration form to declare the re-imported goods and that the order be set aside.
The following case laws were relied upon in her defence : (a) Toyo Engineering Ltd. - 2006 (201) E.L.T. 513 (SC); (b) Ballarpur Industries Ltd. - 2007 (215) E.L.T. 489 (SC); (c) Associated Cement Companies Ltd. v. CC - 2001 (128) E.L.T. 21 (SC); (d) Naresh Lokumal Serai v. CC - 2006 (203) E.L.T. 580 (T); (e) Dynacast Industries v. CC - 1999 (113) E.L.T. 524 (T); (f) Hindustan Steel Ltd. v. the State of Orissa - 1969 (2) SCC 627; (g) HGI Industries Ltd. v. Commissioner of C. Ex. & Cus., Vadodara - 2007 (209) E.L.T. 148 (Tri.-Ahmd.); (h) Shri Ram Hari Ram & Sons Pvt. Ltd. v. Commr. of Cus., New Delhi - 2009 (238) E.L.T. 542 (Tri.-Del.); (i) K.A. Devarajan v. Commissioner of Customs, Cochin - 2001 (130) E.L.T. 887 (Tri.-Chennai); (j) Lakshmi Machine Works Ltd. v. Commr. of C. Ex., Coimbatore - 2011 (263) E.L.T. 313 (Tri.-Chennai); (k) Commissioner of Customs, Hyderabad v. Mussaddilal Exports - 2002 (147) E.L.T. 637 (Tri.-Chennai), etc.
The Commissioner (Appeals), Mumbai taking note of the fact that it had subsequently been demonstrated that the jewellery was indeed carried out of India and hence non-dutiable on re-import, imposed only a token fine/penalty for technical breach of non-declaration in respect of the jewellery. The jewellery valued at Rs. 25,91,000/- was allowed to be released on a redemption fine of Rs. 10,000/- without payment of duty and the watches valued at Rs. 8,80,000/- were allowed to be released on a redemption fine of Rs. 88,000/- on payment of applicable duty under section 125 of the Customs Act, 1962. Penalty imposed under section 112(a) of the ibid Act was also reduced from Rs. 1,00,000/- to Rs. 50,000/-. It is not known whether the department has accepted the said order or preferred any appeal against it. An appeal against such order lies before the Revision Authority at New Delhi.
The present Rules, i.e. Baggage Rules, 2016, allows a passenger residing abroad for more than one year, on return to India, clearance free of duty in his bona fide baggage of jewellery upto a weight, of twenty grams with a value cap of fifty thousand rupees if brought by a gentleman passenger, or forty grams with a value cap of one lakh rupees if brought by a lady passenger. A passenger on a short trip or vacation abroad is not allowed to import any gold jewellery. It is pertinent to note that a specific provision to bring back the jewellery taken out earlier by a passenger or a member of his family from India subject to the satisfaction of the Assistant Commissioner of Customs were available the Baggage Rules, 1998. However, this is done away with the new Baggage Rules, 2016. The clause 2(vi) defining the “personal effects” to mean things required for satisfying daily necessities of life excluding jewellery has also been added.
Section 20 of the Customs Act, 1962 provides if goods are imported into India after exportation therefrom, such goods shall be liable to duty and be subject to all the conditions and restrictions, if any, to which goods of the like kind and value are liable or subject, on the importation thereof. As such in the case of re-import also duty as in the case of first import is leviable. However, notification No. 94/96-Customs dated the 16.12.1996 provided conditional exemption to certain classes of goods from payment of duty on re-import. This notification has recently been superseded by the notifications No. 45/2017–Customs, No. 46/2017–Customs and No. 47/2017–Customs all dated 30.06.2017. A circular No. 02/2002 dated 08.01.2002 also provided the facility to obtain an ‘export certificate’ for jewellery or other valuable items carried by passengers while travelling to a foreign destination to enable its duty free re-import on return to India. Such services are available at the Customs Office, Jhandewalan Jewellery Complex, Jhandewalan, Karol Bagh, New Delhi and at IGI Airport, Terminal-3, New Delhi. In Mumbai such amenities exist at the Precious Cargo Customs Clearance Centre (PCCCC) at Bandra-Kurla Complex, Bandra (East), Mumbai – 400051.
In the present case it is not clear whether the wedding ring in the news was taken by the couple from India on proper documentation, i.e. an export certificate. It is most likely that we will not find Ms. Anushka on the wrong side of the law as speculated on the social media.