of Customs & Central Excise & Ors Vs. M/S. Lethraj Jessumal& Sons
& Anr  INSC 211 (7 February 1996)
S.P. (J) Bharucha S.P. (J) Kirpal B.N. (J)
1996 SCC (7) 489 JT 1996 (3) 20 1996 SCALE (2)33
O R D
appeal upon certificate impugns a judgment of a Division Bench of the Karnataka
respondent had imported miniauthorised switches for use in electronic hearing
aids which it manufactured. lt appears that there are two types ot such switches,
the conventional one then being wafer switches and the other, newly innovated,
being reed switches. It was the latter type of switch which was imported. The
Customs authorities took the view that the respondents' import licence did not
cover reed switches and they were not entitled to the concessional rate of
import duty. The stand of the Customs authorities was, ultimately, assailed in
the writ petition filed by the respondent before the High Court. The Writ
petition was allowed. An appeal was preferred and it is the Judgment in appeal
which is under challenge before us.
High Court in the impugned order noted that the stand of the Customs
authorities was that the words "switches, miniauthorised" as
component parts of hearing aids should be understood to mean only those types
of switches which were generally used in the manufacture of hearinq aids at the
time of publication of the Import Policy for the relevant year, namely 1977,
and that these words could not be said to include any other type of switch even
if such other type of switch could be used in the manufacture of hearing aids.
The Division Bench observed, in our view, very rightly, that such an
interpretation over- looked that industry was not static and that there was
continuous technical progress therein. New processes and new methods developed
from time to time and new material and components or types of components
superseded others. lt was unreasonable to give a static interpretation to words
used in a tariff schedule ignoring the rapid march of technology.
regard to the technical opinion that reed swithces would improve the performance
of hearing aids, the High Court held that reed switches were covered by the
tariff entry. The High Court also noted that it was not the case of the Customs
authorities that the respondent was trying to divert the imported reed switches
from the manufacture of hearing aids to another purpose.
not think that we can put it better. Progress cannot be stifled by an
over-rigid interpretation of lmport Policy or Customs tariff. Both must be read
as they stand on the date of importation and whatever is reasonably covered
thereby must be allowed to be imported regardless of the fact that it was not
in existence or even contemplated when the policy or tariff was formulated.
appeal is dismissed. The bank guarantee given by the respondent pursuant to the
order of this Court dated 25.3.83 shall stand discharged. There shall be no
order as to costs.