17. Power to order production of accounts, entry, inspection and seizure.

(1) The Commissioner or an officer not below the rank of Assistant Excise and Taxation Officer may, for the purposes of this Act, require any importer carrying on business in any goods to produce before him the accounts and other documents, and to furnish any information relating to the stocks of the goods or purchases, sales, receipts and deliveries of the goods by the importer and also any other information relating to his business.

(2) (a) All accounts and registers maintained by an importer in the course of his business and documents relating to stock, purchase, sale, receipt and delivery of goods, the goods in his possession and all offices, shops, godowns, vessels, receptacles and vehicles used by him in relation to his business, shall be open to inspection at all reasonable times by the Commissioner or an officer not below the rank of Assistant Excise and Taxation Officer.

(b) For the purpose of inspection referred to in clause (a), any such officer shall have power to enter and search any office, shop, godown, vessel, receptacle, vehicle or any other place of business or any building or place where such officer has reason to believe that the importer keeps or is for the time being keeping, goods or any accounts, registers or documents of his business, and to take down statement of any person present at the time of inspection:

Provided that no residential accommodation (not being a place of business-cum-residence) shall be entered into and searched by such officer without obtaining the prior sanction of the Deputy Commissioner or Sub- Divisional Officer (Civil) having jurisdiction over the area, and all searches under this sub-section shall, so far as may be, made in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Central Act 2 of 1974).

(3) If any such officer has reason to suspect that any importer is attempting to evade the payment of any tax, fee or other amounts due from him under this Act, he may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, seize such accounts, registers, records, or other documents of the importer as he may consider necessary and shall give the importer a receipt for the same. The accounts, registers, records and documents so seized shall be retained by such officer only for as long as may be necessary for their examination and for any inquiry or proceeding under this Act:

Provided that accounts, registers, records and other documents so seized shall not be retained by such officer, in case the seized document was in use at the time of seizing, for a period exceeding thirty days and in other cases for a period exceeding one hundred and eighty days from the date of seizure, unless the reasons for retaining the same beyond the said period are recorded by him in writing, and the approval of the Commissioner or an officer, authorised by him in writing in this behalf is obtained beforehand and such approval in any case shall not be for more than sixty days at a time:

Provided further that the assessing authority shall, if the importer produces the record maintained by him before the assessing authority for the purpose of verification of seized documents, supply to the importer at his expense, on an application made in this regard, photo-copies of the seized documents.