Custodian of Cargo
Who is a Custodian:
When imported goods are brought into Customs area, until an order of clearance is made by the proper officer of customs, the goods are taken care of by an authority approved as a custodian. This responsibility of caring for goods is not handled directly by the Customs Department. Section 45 empowers the Commissioner of Customs to approve a person as a Custodian for the purpose of the Act.
Duties of a Custodian:
The responsibility of the custodian commences in respect of imported goods the moment the aircraft is ready for unloading from the aircraft.
While the imported goods are in the custody of custodian, it has to be ensured that no one removes the goods from the Customs area without the written permission of the proper officer. The law also prohibits any kind of dealing with the goods while the imported goods are in the custody of the custodian. “Dealing” for this purpose would include, opening of packing, repacking, sampling, movement from one spot to another and the like. All such steps which have to be taken by the importer or his agent must be supported by a written authorization by the Customs officer.
The responsibility for safe custody of goods will subsist until the importer obtains an order of clearance from the proper officer of Customs and clears the goods from the Customs area.
Further, all custodians have to comply with Handling of Cargo in Customs Areas Regulations, 2009 issued vide Notification No. 26/2009- Cus (NT), Dated 17-03-2009 as amended vide Notification No.96/2010-Customs (N.T.) dated 12.11.2010. CBEC has also issued circular No.13/2009-Customs dated 23.3.2009 & Circular No.4 / 2011-Customs dt. 10.1.2011 explaining the salient features of the said regulations.
Liability of a Custodian:
Interestingly, Section 45 holds a custodian responsible for imported goods only. No reference is made in this section to export goods, which are also kept in the custody of the custodian. In fact, no analogous provision is found in respect of export goods. If there is any loss of goods from the Customs area after unloading and while the imported goods are in the custody of the custodian, he will be directly held responsible for such losses. However, these losses are restricted only in respect of duty payable on the lost goods. It does not extend to compensating the importer towards the value of goods. In this context, the definition of the words “Customs area” found in Section 2(11) is important. It is defined as an area of Customs station in which imported goods or export goods are ordinarily kept before clearance by the Customs authorities.
The custodian would be liable to pay the applicable duty of Customs on the lost or pilfered goods. The rate of duty will be determined based on the date of filling of IGM or Import Report under Section 30. [Sub-section (3)].
Custodians at Chennai Air Customs:
Airports Authority of India (Import & Export)
Air India (Export)