FFFAI Members at 4th Executive Committee Meeting interacts on “Who will police the police”

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MUMBAI : The 4th Executive Committee (EC) Meeting of the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI), which was held at NESCO, Mumbai on 28th and 29th Feb, had a very special Knowledge Session captioned “Who will police the police”. This highly interesting Session was conducted by Dr. Sujay Kantawala, who is an eminent lawyer and specializes in Constitutional and Administrative Law litigation pertaining to Indirect Taxation, Customs, Excise, Service Tax and Anti-Dumping Duty. The objective of organizing this session was to sensitize the FFFAI members regarding undue practices of authorities concerned as regards to Customs Brokers’ plights of being penalized for a matter without any involvement and responsibilities for the same. 

Welcoming the Special Guest Speaker Dr. Sujay Kantawala, Mr Dushyant Mulani, Chairman, FFFAI pondered on the importance of the subject of this session. He pointed out that the CB community often faces undue penalties imposed on them, Show Cause Notices are being issued, harassment and treated on par with exporters or importers for any mistakes done by their customers (importers or exporters).

Taking cue from the FFFAI Chairman, Hon. Secretary Mr. Sudip Dey highlighted Dr. Kantawala’s professional profile as an acclaimed advocate and his support to the industry. He frequently appeared in the Supreme Court of India and many High Courts across the States to safeguard the interest of victims pertaining to issues on indirect taxes, customs, excise, service tax matter, anti-dumping duty, etc. 

In his presentation Dr. Kantawala, focused on Customs related issues and especially on misinterpretations of the CBLR/Customs Act by many Customs Officers. He raised the serious concern of accountability of Customs Officers.  Quoting renowned Justice Krishna Iyer’s statement “Who will police the police?”, he raised the pertinent question “Who will police the Customs Officers?” According to him, Citizen Charters displayed in Customs Offices do not make any sense in view of the ground reality. For example after five years a CB is not required to maintain any records. However, he still receives Show Cause Notices (SCN) for the same. He also underscored many instances of serving SCNs to CBs for which he was not even remotely involved. He also stated that responsibilities on issues/disputes arising out of self-assessment are equal concerning involvement of a shipper and proper officer who is the final verifying authority on this matter. In his opinion, many times Customs Officers fail to adhere to the Guidelines issued by the CBIC. CBs should not be penalized for any error in this regard. Similarly, concerned Officers should be punished for any incorrect SCN, penalty or revocation of CB license.

Concluding the Knowledge Session, Mr. Dushyant Mulani informed that with inputs and guidance of Dr. Kantawala, FFFAI would make a representation to CBIC to do away with any injustice to the CB community.  He appreciated Dr. Kantawala’s statement that unequal cannot be considered as equal defending the Article 14 of the constitution of India. He pointed out that 70 percent of FFFAI members are from the MSME Sector and this sector is the backbone of the progress of the country. FFFAI is committed to protect the interest of this sector for the greater interest of the country’s economy.

Attended by more than 100 EC Members across 31 locations in the country, the EC meeting was also addressed by Mr. Sagar Kadu, Director Logistics, DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. He graced the occasion to share insights on the government’s initiatives in the Logistics sector for meeting the ambitious target of becoming the third-largest economy in the world, with a target of a $5 trillion economy by 2025 and a ‘developed country’ by 2047.

The 4th EC meeting also discussed several issues and recommendations regarding Customs, Sea Port, Airport, ICDs etc .

At this meeting FFFAI released a LIVE shipment through FIATA e-BL. This marks a significant step in the history of FFFAI in supporting the Government initiatives of Digitization. The FIATA paperless Bill of Lading allows freight forwarders to easily issue a secured e-FBL through a seamless one-click process, thereby removing double data entry. Members of FFFAI can generate the bill in three distinct ways; API integration with internal systems to fetch the data into the platform, excel uploads or using an innovative machine learning interface to pull data from legacy PDF or scanned documents into the FIATA format with more than 95% accuracy. FFFAI is the only authorized representative of FIATA in India to offer FIATA e-BL services through its Member SSO  login, in a highly secured digital environment. 

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