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CESTAT Bar Association urges Govt to assign GST National Tribunal work to CESTAT

By TIOL News Service

NEW DELHI, JUNE 23, 2022: THE CESTAT Bar Association in Delhi has urged the Government to assign the work of GST National Tax Tribunal to the Principal Bench of CESTAT in Delhi. It can be done with minimal mending and amending of the provisions of the laws.

It its letter, the Bar has noted that the provisions relating to creation of Tribunal as well as its composition and creation of Benches etc. are part of the statute (Section 109 to 114 of the CGST Act, 2017 and mutatis mutandis State and U.T. legislations). Based on considerations of economy and fiscal prudence, relevant expertise, existence of prior administrative structure and optional utilization of existence judicial and technical man power, it is humbly suggested that the present CESTAT be restructured to make it functional as the National GST Tribunal. Broadly, for this the only requirement will be of additionally taking a technical member from the States.

As per the mandate approved by the Council, the national tax tribunal has to only deal with matters relating to place of supply and therefore, with the limited number of cases on the subject likely to come before it, CESTAT can be duly considered, with its present workload as a worthy candidate. Presently CESTAT is having one Bench each at following places i.e. Delhi, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. Some or all of them can be designated to function as National Tax Tribunal for GST matters.

The Bar has emphasised that CESTAT already has existing jurisdiction for Customs matters and of legacy of Service Tax and Central Excise matters. The Tribunal already has as its President a former High Court Judge with sufficient standing, apart from Members (Judicial) as well as Members (Technical) who are presently being recruited in accordance with Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 and which apply uniformly to a number of tribunals. A little bit of fine tuning of the GST Act with minimal amendments with the approval of GST Council can easily fulfill the need of GST Tribunal as effective dispute resolution forum at apex level, which in any case are required to be supplemented by state level appellate tribunals to resolve other than 'place of supply' litigation.

The following benefits will accrue to GST administration if proposal meets the approval of all concerned in the Council:

1. Utilization of existing infrastructure and expertise to easily man this tribunal with much lower extra cost (i.e. of one member in each bench only)

2. Utilization of existing capacities instead of creating new ones at heavy cost with lesser formal experience in Tribunalization.

3. Minimum tinkering or amendments of GST Law required to implement the proposal.

4. The existing Tribunal (CESTAT) already has expertise to deal exclusively with matters of classification and valuation which along with questions pertaining to place of supply can easily be entrusted to it through GST benches to be specifically created with addition of Member (State)

5. The questions pertaining to the place of supply alone may not justify the need of creation of separate National Tax Tribunal and CESTAT can easily be improvised to deal with the work of handling additional issues relating to classification which are all based upon Customs Tariff and for which the wherewithal exists with present Customs Tribunal i.e. CESTAT.

To accommodate the requirement of federal tax structure of GST, the aspirations of states can easily be met by just additionally recruiting Members (State) in the Benches to be formed within CESTAT. This will lead to a drastic cut in expenditure, especially when litigation on such issues initially is not going to be much, the letter explains.