Assessing the Evidentiary Threshold: Undervaluation of Imported Goods under the Customs Act, 1962

Analyzing the Supreme Court’s Emphasis on Concrete Evidence for Claims of Undervaluation and its Implications on Customs Duty Assessment

Assessing the Evidentiary Threshold: Undervaluation of Imported Goods under the Customs Act, 1962


In the realm of customs duty assessment, the valuation of imported goods is a critical aspect that directly impacts the amount of duty payable. The Supreme Court of India has, in various judgments, elucidated the legal position regarding the evidentiary requirements for claims of undervaluation of imported goods by the Customs Department. This article delves into the relevant provisions of the Customs Act, 1962, the principles laid down by the Supreme Court, and the ramifications on the customs duty assessment process.

Legal Framework 

The Customs Act, 1962, primarily governs the valuation of imported goods for the purpose of customs duty assessment. Section 14 of the Customs Act, 1962, stipulates the method for determining the value of such goods. The valuation, as per this section, is based on the transaction value, which is the price actually paid or payable for the goods when sold for export to India, adjusted in accordance with the provisions of the said section1​.

Undervaluation and Customs Duty Under Customs Act, 1962

Undervaluation of imported goods can lead to a significant loss of revenue for the government. Therefore, the Customs Department is vigilant in assessing the value of imported goods to ensure accurate duty payment. However, claims of undervaluation must be substantiated with concrete evidence, as emphasized by the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court’s Stance Under Customs Act, 1962

The Supreme Court has consistently underscored the importance of evidentiary backing for claims of undervaluation by the Customs Department. In the case of Eicher Tractors vs Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai, the Court expounded on the meaning of the expression ‘ordinarily sold’ appearing in Section 14 of the Customs Act​2​. In another instance, the Court clarified the exclusions from the assessable value of imported goods post-import, reiterating the need for a clear understanding of the valuation provisions under the Customs Act, 19623​​.

Requirement of Concrete Evidence

The Supreme Court highlighted that the transaction value should be the primary basis for customs valuation, emphasizing the necessity of concrete evidence in cases of claimed undervaluation​1​. In a recent case, a cross examination under Section 108 of the Customs Act was conducted during an investigation regarding undervaluation of imported goods, underscoring the necessity for a thorough evidentiary process to substantiate claims of undervaluation4​​.

Judicial Precedents

Various judgments have contributed to shaping the legal landscape concerning the valuation of imported goods and the requisite evidence for claims of undervaluation. Notably, the Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of Rajkumar Knitting Mills (P) Ltd. v. Collector of Customs and Ispat Industries Ltd. v. Commr. of Customs have elucidated the principles governing the valuation of imported goods, particularly focusing on the interpretation of Section 14 of the Customs Act, 1962​5.

Conclusion under Customs Act, 1962

The scrutiny of undervaluation claims by the Customs Department is a meticulous process necessitating robust evidentiary support. The Supreme Court’s emphasis on concrete evidence underscores the balance between safeguarding government revenue and ensuring a fair and transparent assessment process for the importers. Through its judgments, the Court has provided a clear roadmap for the adjudication of undervaluation claims, thereby fostering a conducive environment for both the government and the importers in the realm of customs duty assessment.