In this article, Shrey Lodha, of National Law University Odisha (batch of 2017-2022) discusses the benefits available for the persons with disabilities under the excise and customs duty leviable on the products, either for personal or commercial use, imported in India.
With increased awareness, the previous and incumbent Indian governments have always aimed towards ameliorating the difficulties faced by the persons with disabilities; whether this be in the form of passing a legislation, Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1955, or making special provisions for concessions and/or exemptions for persons with disabilities on certain equipments imported by them for personal or commercial use.
Benefits under Excise Duty
In order to further provide benefits to the persons with disabilities, the Ministry of Finance, Government of India vide its notification No. 06/2006 CE dated 01/03/2006 made a provision at Sl No. 49 for the persons with disabilities (specifically: physically handicapped) to be entitled to a rebate of excise duty on purchase of cars which have a capacity of accommodating 7 persons along with the driver subject to the following conditions:
- Deputy Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Heavy Industries, or any other officer not below the rank of Deputy Secretary, shall certify that the said good being procured under the benefits of excise duty concessions is capable of being used by physically disabled persons; and
- The person with disabilities has to ensure that he doesn’t dispose of the car, availed under the benefit of excise duty concession, for a period of five years from the date of purchase of the car.
This power to make a provision for the exemption of excise duty on certain goods is vested by Section 5A of the Central Excise Act, 1944.
A concessional rate of 8% has been permitted against the applicable 16% and 24%, according to the notification, on the cars which are:
- Being able to be driven by the physically handicapped; or
- Suitably designed to be driven by the persons who are physically handicapped; or
- Intended to be designed for physically handicapped persons.
In consonance with the above-circulated notification, the Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India had issued a framework for the issuance of excise duty concession certificates, wherein, the applicant for the same shall furnish following documents:
- A medical certificate, as per the prescribed format, shall be obtained from the Medical Officer of a Government Hospital. For reference, click here for the prescribed format which is attached in Annexure- II of the link.
- A certificate has to be obtained by the buyer of the car from the manufacturer of the car in order to ensure that a booking has been made with respect to purchase of the car with the manufacturer and the said car to be delivered to the person with disabilities has been specifically designed or incorporated with special gadgets or controlling devices, subject to the disability of the buyer whether the disability is in either of the arms or legs or in combination.
- The person with disabilities has to ensure that he doesn’t dispose of the car, availed under the benefit of excise duty concession, for a period of five years from the date of purchase of the car and has to furnish an affidavit stating that the said buyer has not availed such benefits within the period of last five years.
Effective Contribution by Stakeholders
In a stellar move by Dr Satendra Singh, who challenged one of the leading automobile manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Limited, fighting for his rights ascertained to him by the Government of India for receiving excise duty concessions on a purchase of car by the persons with disabilities.
In the case of Dr Satendra Singh v Maruti Suzuki India Limited and Ors Case No.6222/1141/2016 the appellant had 70% locomotor disability for which he had corresponding medical certificate and an affidavit. The appellant had been already driving Alto and had booked an auto transmitted Baleno Delta CVT from Nexa, Akshardham. However, his request of provision of details of the procedure of availing a manufacturer’s certificate was turned down by Maruti Suzuki India Limited by furnishing a set of discriminatory guidelines which had incorporated provision of rebate of Excise exclusively for persons having left-leg disability. When the case was heard before the Court of Chief Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities, it was held that the claim made by Maruti Suzuki India Limited was unjust, discriminatory and arbitrary in nature and settled in favour of the appellant.
After this decision, the Government of India amended the guidelines, thereby replacing the manufacturer’s certificate with Certificate of the RTO or the State Transport Authority. Practices resorted by Maruti Suzuki India Limited were nothing less than malice in law as it stood contrary to the provisions and policies implemented for persons with disabilities by the Government of India. This case relied on the precedent like Vijay Raj Khariwal vs Union of India and Ors CW Case No. 2697 of 2005 which also had similar facts.
Benefits under Custom Duty
Benefits for an Individual
The Government of India further attempted to strengthen the spirit of persons with disabilities by opting out to an affirmative action by circulation of a notification No. 105186 dated 17.2.86 Annexure IV issued by the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance provision of custom concessions on the certain goods imported for their personal use. This power of granting exemption of custom duty is vested by Section 25 sub-section (1) of the Customs Act, 1962. This custom concession waives off the whole of the custom duty and the additional duty, in case that the importer is an individual, subject to the condition that the person with disabilities (in the present case, an importer) has to furnish a certificate from the Civil Surgeon of the District, Medical Officer or the Administrative Medical Officer or the Director of Health Services of the concerned State or a Specialist who has specialisation in the field of the disability claimed which shall be attached to a recognised medical college or a hospital under management and control of the government, at the time of importation, before the Assistant Collector of Customs with regards to the importer suffering from the disability so claimed and that the goods which are being imported by the said importer under the excise duty exemption is essential to overcome the said disability.
Benefits for an Institution
The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Government of India issued another notification, C.S.R. No. 550 (E) dated 10.11.1978, in the case of Institutions; wherein, the Institutions, also including Registered Co-operative Societies, which are specifically working for the visually-impaired and the deaf, are allowed to import the devices and other equipments which are either bonafide gifts received by the institution for the said persons with disabilities or are purchased out of the donations which the institution might have received abroad in foreign exchange:
- The entire leviable custom under the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 (51 of 1975).
- The entire leviable auxiliary custom duty under sub-section (I) of section 35 of the Finance Act; and
- The entire of the leviable additional duty on the good imported in India under section 3 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.
However, it is pertinent to note that the said customs concession shall not be applicable unless either the President or the Secretary of the respective institution furnish an undertaking in writing that it will begin to function within six months of the date of the importation of the goods. Besides, the institution has to manage an account abroad with the Reserve Bank of India for the objective of being the recipient of the funds donated abroad.
Consistent efforts put in by the Government of India through their Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance have attempted to mitigate and uplift the persons affected with certain disabilities. In one such attempt vide its notification dated 01/03/1981 made a provision for exemption of custom duty for the braille paper imported in India subject to the condition that such paper shall be directly supplied to a school for the visually-impaired or to the braille printing press.
In addition, the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance vide its notification No. 379186 dated 03/07/1986 had exempted audio cassettes recorded with material from books, newspapers or magazine meant to be developed for visually-impaired people consigned to be imported in India with an appropriate company as mentioned in the relevant act/statute. These custom concessions would include:
- The entire leviable custom under the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 (51 of 1975).; and
- The entire of the leviable additional duty on the good imported in India under section 3 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, subject to certain conditions:
- The person with disabilities (in the present context, the importer) furnishes before the Assistant Collector of Customs an undertaking which binds him to pay an amount equivalent to the leviable custom duty on the said audio cassettes at the time of importation;
- In the event that the importer fails to comply with the guideline stipulating re-exportation of the audio cassettes within the specified period or within such extended period as allowed by the relevant authority ; and
- Submission of the audio cassettes before a proper office for identification before the re-export.
The re-exportation of the audio cassettes shall be initiated within one year from the date of the import of the said audio cassettes or any such extended period as Assistant Collector of Customs permits.
In a country like India, where democracy is echoed in a rich baritone, where equality is sought-after as an inherent natural right and where disparity is considered to be the most eccentric idea, the Government has always strived for uplifting the difficulties faced by the persons with disabilities and devised beneficial frameworks in the form of exemption of excise duty on passenger cars, concessional custom duty on certain equipments, etc. These measures are intended to play the role of a catalyst which would enable in overcoming the disability or handicap of the persons with disabilities.
Not limited to this, the rising awareness in the masses of the persons with disabilities with respect to the rights bestowed on them has further enabled the stakeholders to receive the intended benefits and bring light on those who are trying to circumvent the said legislation.