GoM readies report on GST appellate tribunals


A group of ministers (GoM) set up by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has cleared the framework for setting up appellate tribunals to hear disputes, proposing more than one bench in a state, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The principal bench of the GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT) is proposed to be set up in New Delhi, while large states can have up to five benches, they said. It also suggested relaxation in criteria for appointment of members.

The GoM, headed by Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala, is likely to submit its report to the GST Council next week, said the people cited.

A final call on recommendations will be taken by the council when it meets in September. Once the GoM’s recommendations are accepted by the council, appellate bodies can be set up in states and UTs, they added.

Pending Demand

The industry has repeatedly raised the need for GSTATs, flagging the urgency to expedite disposal of cases. In the absence of these tribunals, GST disputes were going straight to the high courts after adjudication by officials, creating delays and dragging out disputes.

bench

“Since five years have been completed, and several interpretational issues have cropped up, it is essential that GST tribunals begin functioning soon with an adequate number of benches,” said MS Mani, partner, Deloitte India. “This may necessitate a review of the criteria to be adopted for selecting members, composition of the benches etc, all of which should be completed soon, so the benches are made functional.”

EY partner, tax, Saurabh Agarwal said, “Taxpayers are forced to either keep the dispute in abeyance due to non-formation of a tribunal, or to approach the state high court.”

The GoM has agreed with states on relaxing the experience criterion for appointment of technical members. It had been pegged at 25 years in a draft circulated by the GST Council. Now, each state will set its criterion. It has also allowed states to have more than one bench, based on population, or number of registered and active GST users.

Recommendations

The six-member GoM includes Odisha finance minister Niranjan Pujari, Andhra Pradesh finance minister Buggana Rajendranath, Goa industries minister Mauvin Godinho, Rajasthan law and legal affairs minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal and Uttar Pradesh finance minister Suresh Khanna.

The GoM met on Wednesday in Bhubaneswar to review the proposed framework. It recommended an amendment to Section 110 of the Act, replacing the word ‘government’ with ‘state government.’

This will allow state governments to relax the experience condition. The existing provision allowed only the Centre to provide relaxations or exemptions in the appointment of members.

The GST Council had proposed that each regional bench consist of a judicial officer equivalent to a high court judge, and a senior tax officer from either the Centre or state as a technical member. The appellate body will be headed by former Supreme Court judges or high court chief justices.

The GoM also recommended that a four-member search and selection committee be set up for the appointment of members to the benches. The selection committee will be headed by either the Chief Justice of India or his representative judge from the top court, along with the president of the GSTAT, a Union government secretary and a state chief secretary.



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