New Delhi, Sept. 18 (PTI): The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has asked its officers to exercise utmost caution while arresting people for cognisable and non-bailable offences over alleged violation of tax laws.
“Powers to arrest a person need to be exercised with utmost caution. Chief commissioners/commissioners of central excise are required to ensure that approval for arrest for non-bailable offence is granted only where the intent to evade duty is evident and an element of mens rea (guilty mind) is palpable,” a CBEC circular said.
The Finance Act, 2013, has made certain offences — where the excise duty evasion exceeds Rs 50 lakh — cognisable and non-bailable and has given powers to officers to arrest the alleged offenders.
There are only 1.2 lakh excise duty assessees in the country.
The list of offences for which a CBEC commissioner is empowered to order arrest includes clandestine removal of manufactured goods, removal of without declaring correct value, taking credit on fake invoices and issuing invoices without delivery of goods.
In certain cases, commissioners have to take permission of their chief commissioners for arrests.
The circular added that the decision needs to be taken on a case-to-case basis considering various factors, such as nature and gravity of the offence and the quantum of taxes evaded or false claims.
“... power to arrest has to be exercised after careful consideration of the facts of the case,” the circular said, adding that the arrested person should be produced before the appropriate magistrate within 24 hours.
The offences under Central Excise Act fall in two categories — bailable and non-bailable.
Depending on the type of offence committed, the CBEC said, a person is liable to be arrested in either of the two categories.
“Since arrest takes away the liberty of an individual, the power must be exercised with utmost care and caution and only when the exigencies of the situation demand arrest,” the circular said.
The CBEC has also asked officers to follow the Supreme Court guidelines on arrests. One of the norms is that a woman offender should be held only in the presence of a lady officer.