The Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT), the first common forum of dispute resolution between the Centre and states, will have 31 Benches across the 28 states and Union Territories, the finance ministry has notified. At present, there is no such dedicated judicial forum available to taxpayers, who are required to move to high courts in case of GST-related disputes.
Following this, the rules concerning appointment to the Benches and other procedural changes will be brought in to make the forum operational in the current financial year, government sources said. In March, the Parliament had cleared changes in the Finance Bill following the approval of the GST Council, paving the way for setting up much-awaited appellate tribunals. The move is expected to unlock several thousand cases pending at various levels.
According to the ministry notification, large states, such as Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, will have multiple Benches, while most Union Territories, except Delhi, do not have an independent Bench and would have to share with other states. Goa and Maharashtra together for instance will have three Benches, while Karnataka and Rajasthan will have two Benches each. Uttar Pradesh will have three Benches. West Bengal, Sikkim, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will together have two GSTAT Benches each, while Kerala and Lakshadweep will have one. Gujarat and Union Territories — Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu — will have two benches of the GSTAT.
Besides, 7 Northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura — will have one Bench.
According to the legislation, the tribunal will have a “Principal Bench” in New Delhi, with a president, a judicial member, a technical member (Centre), and a technical member (state). It will also have state Benches, in accordance with the population of the states concerned. The national appellate Bench will look mainly into disputes between the tax department and assessees over the “place of supply”. It, however, will not take up any appeal with regard to divergent rulings by state appellate tribunals. The move assumes significance as it will help unclog appeals from taxpayers pending with central GST authorities which stood at 14,227, as of June 30 this year, according to official data.
The current financial year itself showed over 9,000 matters due to the rise in compliance measures taken by the GST authorities. Even after more than 6 years of implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the appellate tribunal has not been set up. As a result, unresolved legal matters under GST have accumulated.