Publishing confidential import-export data can now land you in jail

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The government has proposed making it an offense punishable by up to six months in prison if details of the quantity and value of individual export and import items are published by a person. .

The FY23 Budget proposed to introduce Section 135AA into customs law through the “data protection” money bill.

“If any person publishes information relating to the value or classification or quantity of goods declared for export from India or imported into India, or the details of the exporter or importer of such goods under of this Act, unless required to do so under any law now in force, he shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding up to fifty thousand rupees, or both,” said the Finance Bill.

He further clarified that nothing in this section applies to any publication made by or on behalf of the central government. “For the purposes of this section, the phrase ‘publish’ includes reproducing information in printed or electronic form and making it available to the public,” it added.

Also Read: ‘Sec 135AA Targeting Hackers of Commercially Sensitive Trade-Related Data’

The explanatory memorandum to the Finance Bill 2022 states that Section 135AA is inserted into the Customs Act to “protect import and export data submitted to customs by importers or exporters in their declarations making the publication of such information except as otherwise required by law”. , as an offense under the Customs Act.

“Import and export customs data regarding valuations are confidential data. But some people had access to this data and published it. The amendment now makes it a punishable offence,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Similar provisions exist under the Statistics Collection Act under which the government collects price and production data, which prohibits government employees from disclosing any information shared by producers. “No information contained in any information listing and no response to any question posed shall, except for the purposes of a prosecution under this Act, be separately published or disclosed without redacting the informant’s identification to any agency” , says the law.

The Act makes any such act punishable by simple imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or, in the case of a company, a fine of up to Rs 10,000 or both.

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