LAHORE – MIAN DAWOOD -  The Lahore High Court has directed the Customs Department to release the solar modules imported from The Netherlands by the wife of a Supreme Court judge by declaring the items exempted from duty.

Rubina Jawwad Khawaja, the wife of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, submitted in her plea that she required some solar modules (renewable energy equipment) for personal use as they were not locally manufactured.

She informed the court that 54 pieces of the modules were imported from SWEA Europe BV of The Netherlands in 2011. The Alternative Energy Development Board also certified the imported solar modules as exempted from levy of Customs Duty and Sales Tax. However, upon arrival in Pakistan, the Customs Department seized the items and refused to release them on provisional basis, despite submitting the “Goods Declaration” requirement of the department, Rubina Khawaja further submitted.

Further pleading her case, through her counsel Shahid Ikram Siddiqui, she submitted that as per SRO-575(I), dated June 05, 2006, the exemption from Customs Duty and Whole Sales Tax was an admissible subject, to condition that the imported goods were not listed in the locally manufactured items through a Customs general order of Federal Board of Revenue.

The counsel pleaded before the court that the Customs Department was not clearing her consignment and was making lame excuses. “The actual matter is a conflict between two government departments,” she has pointed out in her petition. She requested that the Customs Department should be directed to delete solar panels from the list of locally manufactured items appearing at Serial No.825 of the CGO’s No 11/2007.

The Federal Government and the Customs Department, in their joint reply submitted in the court earlier, opposed the petitioner’s contentions, pleading that the wife of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja was not entitled for any exemption as the goods imported were being manufactured locally. However, the Lahore High Court has decided the petition and declared unlawful the action of the authorities concerned.

“The SRO (No 575(I)/2006) clearly shows that the solar panels are covered under its Clause 35(b). Further, item No 5(a) (solar photovoltaic panels) are exempted from the Customs Duty, subject to the certification by the AEDB.

These documents show that the imported solar modules are not locally manufactured items, therefore, are exempted from Customs Duty and Sales Tax, according to the said SRO,” Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan of the LHC wrote in his orders.