New Delhi: The Indian government has taken a major step to expedite the resolution of GST disputes by notifying 31 benches of the GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT) across the country. These benches will be set up in all the states and union territories, except Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, where the GST law is not applicable. The GSTAT will hear appeals against the orders of the tax authorities under the GST regime.
Currently, there are more than 14 thousand pending cases of tax demands under the GST law, which have been challenged by the taxpayers in various High Courts. However, due to the heavy workload and lack of specialized benches, the High Courts are unable to dispose of these cases in a timely manner. This causes hardship and uncertainty for the businesses, as well as loss of revenue for the government.
The GSTAT will provide a faster and cheaper alternative for the taxpayers to seek redressal of their grievances. The GSTAT will consist of a national bench at New Delhi, headed by a president, and regional benches at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad, headed by vice presidents. Each bench will have one judicial member one technical member from the Centre and one technical member from the state or union territory.
The GSTAT benches will be distributed according to the volume and nature of cases in each state or union territory. For instance, Gujarat and Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu will have two benches each, while Goa and Maharashtra will have three benches each. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh will have three benches, while Karnataka and Rajasthan will have two benches each. West Bengal, Sikkim Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry will have two GSTAT benches each, while Kerala and Lakshadweep will have one bench each. There will be a single bench for the seven northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. All other states will have one bench each of GSTAT.
The notification of 31 GSTAT benches is the first phase of the government’s plan to establish a robust mechanism for resolving GST disputes. The next phase will involve identifying suitable locations for the benches, appointing qualified members, and providing the necessary infrastructure and resources. The government has also sought the cooperation of Google and Apple to ensure that no illegal or unsafe loan apps are allowed on their platforms.
The industry chamber CII has welcomed the government’s decision to notify GSTAT benches, saying that it will help improve the ease of doing business and enhance investor confidence. The CII DG Chandrajit Banerjee said that the absence of GSTAT had forced businesses to approach the High Court for relief, which was costly and time-consuming. He said that GSTAT will provide an impartial, expert, and efficient forum for settling tax disputes under GST. He also urged the government to expedite the appointment of members and operationalization of GSTAT at the earliest.