Kathmandu, May 14
The Supreme Court today stayed the government’s decision to levy additional 15 per cent customs duty on sugar imported by Gyan Enterprises Sajhedari Firm from Pakistan.
The order was passed by a single bench of Justice Bam Kumar Shrestha in response to a writ petition filed by Naresh Dugar of Dugar Group, against the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Ministry of Finance, Rani Customs Office and others.
On April 17, the Cabinet had decided to increase the customs duty on sugar imports to 30 per cent from 15 per cent ‘to facilitate sugarcane farmers and sugar mill operators’ amid increasing flow of cheaper imported sugar in the domestic market.
The Supreme Court stated in its order that the stay order would remain in effect till May 28, when the court will decide further on the matter after hearing arguments of both parties.
The apex court also issued a show cause notice to the defendants. It stated that it was issuing a stay order because the petitioner had opened letter of credit (LC) and had purchased sugar before the government decided to hike customs duty on the import of sugar.
Petitioner Naresh Dugar stated in his petition that he had imported 5,200 metric tonnes sugar from Mirpurkhas Sugar Mills Ltd of Pakistan between February 28 and April 15, the shipment of which had already reached Biratnagar Customs Office. The petitioner said he had already paid customs duty for 5,200 metric tonnes sugar and the customs office had already checked the shipment of 4,628 metric tonnes.
He added that out of 5,200 metric tonnes of sugar that he had imported from Pakistan, 572 tonnes was still at Biratnagar Customs Office. The petitioner said some shipments of the imported sugar were at Kolkata port while other shipments had already left Kolkata port for Biratnagar.
The petitioner said that on April 18, Biratnagar Customs Office told him to pay a 30 per cent customs duty as per government’s decision that came into effect on April 17.
The petitioner argued that he had opened LCs before March 23 for importing sugar from Pakistan and had completed all the processes of the trade before the government hiked import duty. The petitioner said the government enforced new import duty with retroactive effect which was against legal provisions and principle of justice. The petitioner added that the government’s decision was against its prior promises and legitimate expectation. He argued that only the Parliament could change the laws.
A version of this article appears in print on May 15, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.