Petitioner says the move goes against SEZ Act

India Gateway Terminal Pvt. Ltd, which operates the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadom filed a writ petition before the Kerala High Court on Monday against a move by the Customs authorities to withdraw staff from the terminal gate for not demarcating an area inside the terminal for examination of cargos.

When the petition came up, Justice P.N. Ravindran recused himself from hearing it and ordered that it be posted before another judge.

In its petition, Indian Gateway Terminal said the Commissioner of Customs, Kochi, had written to the Chairman of the Cochin Port Trust stating the move.

The petitioner said that a container terminal came under the definition of “processing unit” under the Special Economic Zone Act. Under the Act, no Customs examination could be carried out or conducted in the processing area of any SEZ. Customs officials could conduct such examinations only in the non-processing area of a SEZ.

Trade Facility Notice

In the Trade Facility Notice, the Customs Commissioner had set forth the procedure for clearance of import and export cargo in the Vallarpadom Special Economic Zone. The notice required the containers to be taken out of the petitioner's unit immediately to the designated CFS for examination, delivery, and so on. However, the Customs authorities recently made a demand for demarcation of an examination area inside the terminal. But the petitioner refused to concede it on the ground that the entire premises of the petitioner were a processing zone under the SEZ Act, which did not permit the Customs authorities to set up such a facility. By the letter dated October 28, the Commissioner of Customs threatened to withdraw the Customs officers from the gate.

The petitioner feared that if the Customs authorities so withdrew its staff and prevented cargoes from getting exported or imported, such a decision would be contrary to the SEZ Act and the SEZ Rules. It would badly affect containerised trade and commerce from the Cochin port, the petitioner felt.

  • Judge recuses himself from hearing the plea
  • Petitioner fears the move will hit containerised trade