SC seeks Centre’s response on PIL seeking probe into alleged duty evasion in iron exports to China

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Centre to file its response in two weeks to a PIL seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR and probe the alleged duty evasion by 61 iron exporting firms including Essar Steel and Jindal Steel & Power in exporting iron ore to China since 2015.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, which was initially of the view that a fresh petition was needed to be filed after withdrawing the present one, later asked the Centre to file its counter affidavit on the PIL filed by lawyer M L Sharma in his personal capacity.
This is a serious matter if correct, the bench, also comprising Justice Surya Kant, said.
Initially, the bench asked the lawyer to file a fresh petition dealing with the specific roles of companies which have been made parties to the PIL.
Sharma said the bench, headed by the then CJI S A Bobde, had considered his submissions while issuing notice on the plea on January 15 this year.
Earlier, he had said that the companies be prosecuted for alleged evasion of export duty by declaring wrong tariff code to export the iron ore under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992.
The bench was told that iron ore smuggling to China has been taking place as these companies have been exporting them without paying 30 per cent export duty.
The PIL said the ministries of commerce and finance control and regulate the export policies and decide as to under which Harmonized System (HS) Codes each good will be exported.
It said the government had set up a firm with the name of KIOCL to use low grade iron ore and export them under the duty free Tariff HS code 26011210 which is exclusively prescribed for KIOCL .
The PIL said under Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992, tariff HS CODE NO. 26011100 was prescribed to export ”all other kind of iron ore” subject to payment of export duty at the rate of 30 per cent .The firms were wrongly allowed to export iron ore using the tariff code being used by KIOCL and as a result crores of rupees have been cheated by them, it said.

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