In another twist to the Safeguard duty saga, the Madras High Court has also waded in by allowing a temporary exemption for import of panels. This follows the order issued by the Orissa High Court to put a stay on the notification of the safeguard duty by the ministry of finance. The Madras High Court has now released an order instructing custom officials to temporarily release specified solar modules under order without the payment of the duty.
The court has asked the customs officials at the Chennai port to consider an interim flexibility regarding the imposition of the safeguard duty for companies with projects under development given they can provide the necessary bonds. The court order was in response to a petition filed by Shapoorji Pallonji to clear its goods from the Chennai port and exemption from payment of the duty fees after it found a prima facie case for the petitioner.
This stand-in order has been issued with respect to the pending status of the stay order issued by the Orissa High Court which directed the government not to issue any notification regarding Safeguard Duty until August 20, 2018. However, the official order to levy a 25% duty on solar imports released by the ministry of finance on 30th July went up against the orders of the Orissa HC and has since been challenged by solar developers like Hero, Acme and Vikram Solar.
The Madras HC mentioned in their order that they are aware of the discussions held during the Orissa High Court hearing held on the 9th of August. That the court has ordered the government to withdraw the duty notification on or before the 13th of August, and the next hearing has been set for 14th August. The department of revenue responded to the court order by claiming that they’re willing to amend the safeguard duty but any decision will be taken after the next hearing is concluded. In light of the above observations, the Madras High court found a prima facie case to grant relief to the petitioner (Shapoorji Pallonji). The matter will be heard again on September 3, 2018.