RESPONSIBILITIES OF VARIOUS RANKS OF CUSTOMS OFFICIALS ASSIGNED WITH IMPORT CLEARANCE WORK
I. Group Appraising Officer:
Consequent on introduction of the EDI System the role of Group Appraising Officers has been drastically downgraded to that of a clerk or assistant in assessment of the Bill of Entry. Verification of physical documents by the Group AO is done away with and the work is entrusted to the Shed AO who sits at the Port/ICD/CFS. Personal interaction with the importers or their representatives with the Group AOs is completely severed.
The Group AOs are to assess the Bill of Entry only on the basis of data displayed on screen of the EDI system. As per existing law only if the value is more than Rs one lakh, the assessment made by the Group AO has to be approved by Assistant Commissioner. But the EDI software requires every assessment of Bill of Entry made by the Group AO irrespective of value has to be approved by the Group AC/DC. In effect Notification No. 40/2012-Customs (N.T.) dated 02.05.2012 declaring the AO as proper officer with regard to Sub-sections (2), (3), (4) and (6) of section 17 has become irrelevant with regard to assessment of BE. The Group AO cannot take any decision independently in any activity of assessment even in raising a query to produce document. Thus, the power to assess is absolutely taken away from the AO and handed over to the AC/DC thus making AC/DC the Proper Officer for assessment u/s 17 of the Customs Act, 1962.
If the Group AO feels that the importer has wrongly declared the classification or rate of duty or value or exemption Notification No., he may change them and enter his comments in the system but it has to be approved by the Group AC/DC. If the Group AO requires any clarification from the importer, he has to make a query requiring the importer to produce the Manufacturer Invoice or catalogue etc., forward the query to the AC/DC who is the proper officer of assessment empowered to call for any document. Since nobody other than the Group Appraising Officers who work in the EDI terminals are allowed entry into their cubicles, the importer or his representative has to produce the documents or provide the required clarification only to the AC/DC.
When the Group AC/DC completes the assessment, the Challan to pay duty is generated. After paying the duty, the importer or his representative goes to the Port/ICD/CFS where the import cargo is lying and produce the docket containing the original documents.
On introduction of RMS [Para 4 Public Notice No 68 /2006, Chennai Custom House], most of the assessment is done by the system itself and the importer can pay duty, produce the documents to the Shed officers at the port/ICD/CFS where the cargo is lying and clear the consignment. RMS selects only a few consignments for assessment by Group Appraisers / Examination by Shed officers and accordingly forwards the BE to their queue.
Introduction of Self Assessment last year has taken away the assessment function from the customs officials and it is entrusted with the importers themselves. The BEs are processed through RMS and most of the BEs are facilitated bypassing the Assessment Group and Examination requirement and straight away Challan to pay duty is generated. The importer can pay duty, produce the documents to the Shed officers at the port/ICD/CFS where the cargo is lying and clear the consignment. RMS selects only a very few consignments for verification of assessment by Group Appraisers / Examination by Shed officers and accordingly forwards the BE to their queue.
II. Shed Appraising Officer:
One man's loss is another man's gain. The responsibilities taken away from the Group Appraiser on introduction of EDI / RMS are added to the Shed Appraising Officer. He is the proper officer to grant ‘out of charge’ who still plays a very crucial role in the customs clearance function even after the introduction of trade facilitation measures of EDI/RMS/Self Assessment. The Shed Appraising Officer is assisted by Examination Officer[s]. The importer or his representative go to the port/ICD/CFS where the cargo is lying and register their Bill of Entry at the Shed EDI system. The BE comes to the Shed Appraiser queue. The docket containing all original documents are placed before the Shed Appraiser who gives an open order and directs the Examination Officer to open the selected container / package where examination is ordered in the RMS [Para 12 Public Notice No 68 /2006, Chennai Custom House]. Only marks and numbers are to be verified in respect of RMS ‘No assessment - No examination’ facilitated consignments [Para 11 Public Notice No 68 /2006, Chennai Custom House].
The Examination Officer conducts the Examination / Inspection; generates a report in the EDI system and forwards the BE to the Shed Appraiser queue who ultimately grants customs ‘out of charge’. Before granting customs ‘out of charge’, the Shed Appraiser has to verify sufficiency of the documents produced to him in the Docket, compare with the report of the Examination Officer with reference to the Examination Order / Compulsory Compliance Requirement etc. generated by the RMS system. Also has to do whatever he is asked to do in the open order of RMS/Group Appraiser with regard to description, classification, valuation, compliance of conditions of relevant notifications, debiting of licence etc. [Para 7 Public Notice No 68 /2006, Chennai Custom House] The Shed Appraiser has to countersign all the documents handed over to him in the Docket and retain for office record [Para 12 Public Notice No 68 /2006, Chennai Custom House].
III. Examination Officer:
The role of Examination Officer posted at the port/ICD/CFS has continued to be unchanged even after the trade facilitation measures of EDI/RMS/self assessment. His interface with public is not restricted and he is the real field executive officer. The EO is the conventional Customs Officer who physically checks [where examination is ordered] the import goods to satisfy whether the declaration made in the Bill of Entry with regard to description, classification, valuation, compliance of conditions of relevant notifications, etc., are correct. He should also ensure compulsory compliance requirements in respect of the goods [Para 10 Public Notice No 68 /2006, Chennai Custom House] .
He is required to keenly observe whatever he sees and also to have a third eye to perceive beyond ordinary sight to detect any misdeclaration, concealment or any foul play. Almost all the EOs are in their prime youth. [EOs mostly get promoted to AO before they attain the age of 35.] They need to maintain good health and have physical stamina to exert moving around the port/ICD/CFS to the places where the goods/containers are kept because the job of the EO is highly demanding both intelligence and physical strength and always keeping their eyes, and ears open. If they are alert & watchful and work in tandem with the preventive officials, nothing can be done to hoodwink the department.
IV. Preventive Officer:
Preventive Officers , as their designation suggestions, are assigned with the task of preventing activities which are not permitted by Customs and Allied laws in the customs area. Landing/arrival or removal of goods in the customs area, movement of men, materials and vehicles within the port/ICD/CFS happens under their overall supervision. Destuffing and stuffing of container and loading of goods onto the vessel are supervised by the POs. The Appraising Officers and the Preventive Officers do distinctly different functions with a single objective of enforcing the provisions of the Customs and Allied laws.