The customs department has made a major change in the existing guidelines to ensure foreigners accused of smuggling do not run away and face speedy prosecution in India, an official said on Wednesday.
The move came as the government was informed about the steep rise in cases of outright smuggling of gold and foreign currency by foreign nationals.
“It was brought to the notice of the government that these accused persons have no interest/assets in India, and once released on bail, they are not available to face trial,” the customs official said, quoting an official order in this regard.
Therefore, service of show cause notice by a designated court to these foreigners becomes difficult, thus delaying the prosecution process, he said.
The matter was examined and it has been decided to modify guidelines issued in 2015 on launching of prosecution.
“Further, in cases involving foreign national(s), the prosecution may be launched at the earliest, even before issuance of the show cause notice,” the order said.
Normally, the prosecution is launched immediately on completion of adjudication proceedings, it said.
“However, in respect of cases involving offences relating to items, viz. gold, foreign currency, fake Indian currency notes, arms, ammunition and explosives, antiques, art treasures, wildlife items and endangered species of flora and fauna, prosecution may preferably be launched immediately after issuance of show cause notice under the Customs Act, 2916,” the order said.
The change in the existing guidelines will ensure that the foreigners accused of smuggling face the law, the customs official said.
“It really becomes very difficult to chase these accused foreigners once they have got bail in the offence allegedly committed by them as they do not have much stake or asset in India. The latest modification in the existing guidelines will also help in ensuring speedy prosecution process for these foreign nationals,” he said.
There has been an increase in the cases of smuggling via the Delhi airport.
A total of 340 cases of gold smuggling, an increase of 58 per cent as compared to the cases filed in 2017, were registered by the customs in 2018, according to a customs department data.
In these cases, 402.48 kilograms of gold, valuing over Rs 110 crore, were seized and 262 people arrested, it said.
There were 57 cases of smuggling of foreign currencies during the year, in which forex worth Rs 22.27 crore were seized. A total of 38 people were arrested in these cases, the customs department data said.
In 2017, there were 215 cases of gold smuggling at the Delhi airport. The customs officials seized 242.5 kilograms of the yellow metal in these cases and arrested 143 people.
In 35 cases of forex smuggling in 2017, a total of 18 people were arrested and foreign currencies worth Rs 10.75 crore seized.
Some of the foreign nationals were arrested in these cases of smuggling, according to the customs officer.