Slapped with import duty on air gun, shooter trades fire with Customs

A Haryana resident, who is also a member of Maharashtra Rifle Association, sent a legal notice to the Customs last month, a year after he was forced at the Mumbai airport to pay import duty on a .177-calibre air rifle, an item that was made duty-free by a Customs' notification in 2005.

Amitoj Singh has argued that though air guns and pistols do not come under the purview of the Arms Act and are exempted from import duty, he was made to pay Rs 30,000 (35% of its price) as import duty and assured the amount would be refunded.

Singh says he took the legal recourse after the Customs refused to refund the amount citing separate notifications and instead sent him a notice in November last year asking him to pay the balance 65% duty.

The Director General of Foreign Trade had, in 2005, made the import of air guns duty-free to encourage shooting. Also, acting on a petition by National Rifle Association of India, the the Supreme Court had last year stayed a Delhi High Court order classifying air guns as fire arms.

On January 21, 2012, Singh landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), where he purchased the rifle. He was, however, told he had to obtain an NOC from Mumbai police before he could be returned the weapon. "They wanted to know if the air gun could be converted into a fire arm. The .177-calibre air gun is used only for target practice. A few days later, I went to the office of Mumbai Police Commissioner and was told that no such NOC was required," he said.

"Finally, I paid 35% import duty on February 9 and got my rifle back without the NOC. I was convinced they were only trying to harass me. I was also assured I could obtain a refund by sending them the receipt of the duty paid. In the following months, I kept writing to various Customs officials, but instead of refunding the import duty, they argued that air rifles were not exempt from duty under their rules," he said.

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