Revenue secretary Tarun Bajaj on Saturday clarified the penal provision announced in the budget on breach of trade data to ensure enhanced data protection to exporters and importers. Bajaj pointed out that unauthorised sale and purchase of trade data hurting interests of exim players has come to the fore and that's why it has been made a punishable offence.

The Finance Bill, 2022 has introduced Section 135 AA in the Customs Act of 1962 making unauthorised publishing of trade data a punishable act with imprisonment up to six months.

"If a person publishes any information relating to the value or classification or quantity of goods entered for export from India, or import into India, or the details of the exporter or importer of such goods under this Act, unless required so to do under any law for the time being in force, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees, or with both," the proposed section reads.

Instances of illegal publishing and sale and purchase of trade data by unscrupulous entities on the dark web has prompted the move, says revenue secretary Tarun Bajaj. Many organisations brought to the notice of the government that they are losing their competitive advantage as price and merchandise data are illicitly being used by unauthorised parties, he says.

The section will not apply to the authorised government agencies and departments, he adds.

In fact the newly amended provision in the Finance Bill too reinforces this point. "Nothing contained in this section shall apply to any publication made by or on behalf of the central government.

"For the purposes of this section, the expression “publishes” includes reproducing the information in printed or electronic form and making it available for the public," the Budget document explains.

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