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Sunday October 24, 2021

SHC directs federal government to consider case of vintage car importers

September 12, 2021
SHC directs federal government to consider case of vintage car importers

A full bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the federal government to consider the cases of vintage car importers for a one-time relaxation under the clause 21 of the 2020 import policy order in respect of vintage cars already imported by them and to decide the same within 10 days.

Two judges of the three-judge bench issued such a direction on identical petitions pertaining to import of vintage cars and jeep manufactured prior to January 1, 1968.

The petitioners have imported the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud (1960), Bentley S1 (1956), Two Bentley Cars (1967 & 1947), 1965 Ford Mustang Vin and Chevrolet Corvair (1965).

A counsel for the petitioners submitted that they had imported vintage cars on the strength of SRO No.833(I)/2018 issued on July 3, 2018 followed by a court decision. They said that the issue of the release of those vehicles came before another bench which did not concur with the ratio decidendi of judgment delivered by another bench of the high court.

The full bench was constituted to decide on whether the subject SRO No. 833(I)/2018 issued in terms of the Section 19 of the Customs Act, 1969, could also be treated as an SRO issued

by the ministry of commerce in terms of the Section 3 of the Import and Export Control Act, 1950, permitting the import of vintage cars which were otherwise not importable as being old and used in terms of the import policy order of both 2016 and 2020.

The petitioners’ counsel submitted that in the SRO 833(I)/2018 issued under the Section 19 of the Customs Act, 1969, the federal government had exempted vintage or classic cars and jeeps from such customs duty, regulatory duty, additional customs duty, federal excise duty, sales tax and withholding tax in excess to a cumulative amount of USD5,000.

A counsel for the ministry of commerce and Collector of Customs filed respective comments and opposed the importability of such vehicles under the referred SRO and under restrictions and prohibitions provided in the 2016 and 2020 import policies.

Two judges, Justices Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry, observed that issuing the consequent SRO to fix duty and taxes on the import of vintage cars, the federal government held out and represented to citizens that the requisite SRO permitting the import of vintage cars had also been issued, or at least that the import of vintage cars was not forbidden any more.

The high court observed that the import policy order vested a certain discretion in the federal government to allow an import in relaxation of a prohibition therein. The high court observed that the customs counsel had also disclosed during the course of arguments that the federal government had in the past exercised such discretion to issue a one-time import permit for a vintage car.

The SHC observed that clause 21 of the import policy order did cater to an import made bona fide with unintended consequences. The high court disposed of the petition with a direction to the federal government to consider the case of petitioners for a one-time relaxation under the Clause 21 of the 2020 import policy order in respect of vintage cars already imported by them and to decide the same within 10 days.

The another member of the bench, Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui, however, dismissed the petitions observing that the petitioners could not seek the release of their respective vehicles by enforcing SRO 833(I)/2018 as long as restrictions and prohibitions of the ministry of commerce in terms of the SRO 345(I)/2016 and SRO 901(I)/2020 forming that the import policy order 2016/2020 were not relaxed.