05.02.2024: ‘Expect GST Appellate Tribunals by around July or August’

The much-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) Appellate Tribunals, intended to resolve taxpayer disputes under the six-and-a-half years old indirect tax regime, may begin operations around July or August, Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra told The Hindu in an interview on Saturday.

“The process has been initiated. Very soon, you are going to see an advertisement in the media for the process of selection of the members and the president. And we hope that, quickly, in a period of six months or so from now, we are able to put some of the tribunals in place,” Mr. Malhotra said.

“There are 31 benches spread over about 50 locations, most of which should become operational by July-August… so we should be in a position to do this soon after the new government takes charge,” he noted.

Introduced on July 1, 2017, the GST framework included provisions to constitute Appellate Tribunals as the second appellate authority for hearing appeals against the orders passed by the Appellate Authority under the Central and State GST laws. However, in their absence, taxpayers have been compelled to seek relief from the High Courts, with the number of appeals under central GST laws having risen to about 15,000 by October 31 – 25% higher than the pending cases as on March 31 last year.

The Central GST law was amended in July to enable the creation of appellate tribunals, and the Finance Ministry notified the setting up of 31 tribunals across 28 States and eight Union Territories in mid-September. At the time, officials believed that the first set of tribunals would become operational by December 2023 or January 2024.

However, it was subsequently discovered that some provisions relating to eligibility and age criteria for the tribunals’ members and presiding officers were not aligned with the Tribunal Reforms Act of 2021. The GST Council chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in October, cleared amendments to align those provisions, which were steered through Parliament’s winter session in December. 

“Non-constitution of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunals is denying the taxpayers of second appellate remedy and consequently the taxpayers are seeking relief directly from the High Court, thereby burdening the High Courts,” Ms. Sitharaman had said in the Lok Sabha.

Taxpayers can withdraw their GST-related cases filed in High Courts and the Supreme Court and lodge them with the upcoming GST appellate tribunals so as to speed up their outcomes, the minister had advised. 

Source: The Hindu 

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