The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), under the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue, Government of India has adopted paperless customs process. The digital adoption is being carried out in a phased manner the first phase of faceless assessment has started at Chennai and Bengaluru ports.
As per a circular issued by Ananth Rathakrishnan, Deputy Secretary, (Customs), “The Board directs that with effect from June 22, 2020, only the digital copy of the Shipping Bill bearing the Final LEO would be electronically transmitted to the exporter and the present practice of printing copies of the said document for the exporters and also for maintaining a docket in the Customs House would stand discontinued. This reform complements the introduction of a digital pdf Out-
of-Charge (OOC) copy of the Bill of Entry and Gatepass w.e.f. 15.04.2020 and the launch of the first phase of Faceless Assessment at Chennai and Bengaluru with effect from June 8, 2020.”
In the issued circular, the Board has also mentioned that for exports, all the supporting documents mandatorily needs be uploaded on eSanchit. However, anticipating a situation where printouts of Shipping Bills are required, the Board desires that such scenarios should be informed by exporters immediately and the respective Principal Commissioners / Commissioners of Customs would analyse the situation and take a decision on allowing printouts. Although, this is applicable only in exceptional situations.
The Board informed that it is an initiative to promote ease of doing business with a secure electronic communication of the final Let Export Order (LEO) copy of the Shipping Bill and the Gatepass copy of Shipping Bill, which will help the exporters get the documents updated immediately.
With this reform, the Board is aiming to accrue benefits in terms of saving time and cost of compliance for trade, while providing enhanced security features for verification of authenticity and validity of the electronic document.
Commenting on the move, Sahil Munjal, Vice Chairman, Pharmexcil said, “Documents are a major part of shipping. Maintaining multiple documents and filing them takes up both, time and space. Taking the process online will help save on both. In future, it can also help create an integrated documentation platform that can be accessed by all the parties (exporter, importer, shipping lines, ports, banks, storage) involved in the transaction. Thus, paving the way to a paperless system.”
He further added, “No requirement of paperwork in export and import custom clearing process will expedite the process, make it much faster, flexible and free from human intervention. And it will also help in providing a seamless experience to the shipper and reduce loss arising out of delays and operational inefficiency for the service providers. It will also help various service providers like ports, road and rail transporters, storage, and shipping lines to plan better and ensure maximum utilisation of their space and equipment.”
Applauding the move, SV Veeramani, CMD, Fourrts India Labs and Former National President-IDMA said, “The notification of the CBIC for electronic communication of shipping bill and eGate passes to customs brokers/exporters is a welcome step as it can save time and speed up the entire export process. The idea of paperless customs augurs well for the future.”
Harish Jain, Secretary, Karnataka Drugs and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association stated, “Circular of Customs is of far-reaching gains, especially in this era of COVID-19 pandemic requiring physical distancing and minimal interface. This initiative will not only promote ease of doing business but will also ensure faster clearances and promote environmentally friendly practices. There will be no need for bulky paper documents. As the circular gives clarity on the steps to be followed, we at KDPMA welcomes this initiative.”
Viranchi Shah, National Vice President, IDMA-GSB said, “The move towards paperless customs processing through PDF copies of shipping bills and eGatepass is a welcome move. It will make the exports clearances smoother and faster and reduce transaction time and costs. It is a positive step towards the ease of doing business.”