Ever since the government has introduced online system to track imports of drugs at ports a couple of years ago, the online system named Icegate system has been marred by procedural flaws leading to its poor implementation which has badly impacted the industry.
It is learnt that after two years of its introduction, the system is not completely online and the bill of entries are being accepted off line too leading to delays, inconsistent decisions and poor tracking of data related to drugs.
This change in procedure has led to non-uniformity in procedure and hence delays in release of products and added cost to the importer as demurages which has impacted the trade.
Demurrages refers to the charges that the shipowner pays to the charterer for its delayed operations of loading/unloading. Officially, demurrage is a form of liquidated damages for breaching the laytime as it is stated in the governing contract (the charter party).
The custom house agents are supposed to file bill of entries online and get clearances online as per the Icegate system. If the consignment is drug it requires on line clearance from assistant drug controller (ADC) before getting clearance from the customs department as per the online system.
Recently, Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has also written to the Commissioner Information Technology (IT) Customs to look in the matter and make the system consistent so that the monitoring of drugs being imported is uniform throughout the country.
As per sources, drugs released without ADC NOC may be risky and Icegate system was introduced for drug imports on insistence of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) only to mitigate that risk. Commerce ministry and Health ministry therefore need to address this issue so that only online system is adopted completely for release of drugs in the country.