In a stepdown from its earlier move, the government on Thursday announced that India will not restrict import of laptops and other IT hardware products, while unveiling a new contactless import authorisation system. The industry has been in a tizzy for over three months after the Centre had said it was planning to bring several IT hardware products under the ‘restricted’ label as part of the country’s attempt to ensure a trusted supply chain and also in its effort to reduce import dependence on China.
This was the first time that the two key departments, the Ministry of Information Technology (Meity) and the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), which have been part of the move, came together at a joint press conference to assuage the apprehensions of the industry that the country may be going back to the licence raj. According to an official document, the import permit will be issued in an end-to-end online format and the government claims this process will require less than 10 minutes to complete.
The importers are allowed to apply for multiple authorisations, after which they will receive a Custom clearance.
The import authorisation will remain valid till September 2024. After the expiry of the authorisation, the government will study the data, continue to interact with the stakeholders, and will figure out how to take it forward, which will provide certainty to the industry. The new system will be in place from November 1.
Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) Santosh Kumar Saranagi said the government would not reject any import requests, except for companies in the “denied entity list”.
Such a list includes firms that have not fulfilled or defaulted export obligations by availing of benefits of schemes, such as advance authorisation and Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG), or having Directorate of Revenue Intelligence cases against them.
Sarangi, however, said that though an online system had been put in place, these IT hardware products were still “under the restricted” category and “there is no change in that”.
With the import management system in place, the government will collect clear data about specific products, coming in from different sources and monitoring it in consultation with stakeholders. This is to ensure a ‘trusted supply chain’ for electronics in the country amid increasing cybersecurity threats for hardware products.
On August 3, the Centre had announced it was planning to bring several products in the IT hardware segment under the ‘restricted’ label. The Centre, however, deferred the implementation till October 30 after the industry raised serious concerns over the decision.
IT secretary S Krishnan said the new mechanism was launched after an extensive consultation with the industry. The idea is to promote domestic manufacturing of electronic goods. There’s no shortage of these goods in the country and higher production will help in reducing product prices, he said.
“The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and DGFT had multiple rounds of consultations with the trade and their concerns have been taken into account, and some tweaking in policies has been made. The new end-to-end online system will ensure the entire system is online, faceless, contactless, and there will be no hassles for importers to fill in the details,” Sarangi said at a press conference.
Entities such as from Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Export Oriented Units will not be required to obtain an authorisation for import of notified IT hardware. The given exemption is allowed only for the captive consumption of the importing units concerned.
The new system will collect details such as an import item summary, data about past imports, exports, and turnover of the importer. To ease the process, the new system will allow the importer to track online their application and they can share the authorisation to the Customs port of registration in an electronic mode.
Spare parts, assemblies, sub-assemblies, components, and other inputs necessary for manufacturing these devices will not need any authorisation under the new system.
Additionally, for the purpose of R&D, testing, benchmarking, evaluation, and product development, up to 20 items per consignment will be exempted from authorisation.