GST Appellate Tribunal

GST Appellate Tribunal


Why in the news?  

Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman administered the oath of integrity and secrecy to Justice (Retd.) Sanjaya Kumar Mishra is the President of the GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT). Mr Mishra was a former Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court and was selected by a Search-cum-Selection Committee headed by the Chief Justice of India.

What is the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal? 

The GSTAT is the quasi-judicial body established under Section 109 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, to hear various appeals under the said Act and the respective State/Union Territories GST Acts against the orders of the first appellate authority. It represents a specialised authority formed to resolve GST-related disputes at the appellate level. 

As per the approval of the GST Council, the government has notified the Principal Bench, which is to be located in New Delhi, and 31 State Benches at various locations across the country. 

The tribunal composition includes a head known as the President, a Judicial Member, and two Technical Members, one representing the state and the other from the central Government. The eligibility criteria of the members are: 

    • The tribunal president must be a Supreme Court judge or have served the High Court as the Chief Justice.
    • The Judicial member must have served as a High Court or an Additional/District Judge for 10 years.
    • The Technical Member (Centre) should be a Group A Indian Revenue Service or All India Service member with three years of GST administration experience in the Central Government and must have 25 years of service in Group A. 
    • The Technical Member (State) should be a state officer or All India Service officer above the Additional Commissioner of VAT and First Appellate Authority rank, with at least 25 years in Group A or equivalent services and three years in GST, finance, or taxation administration. 

The president and members of GSTAT serve for four years or until they reach 70 (president) or 67 years of age. GSTAT is equivalent to a Civil Court for trying a case. It can pass orders, hear cases, impose penalties, and revoke or cancel registrations. 

Some of the key functions of the tribunal include: 

    1. Hearing Appeals: GSTAT primarily hears appeals against decisions made by the lower authorities under the GST law. This includes appeals against orders issued by the Appellate Authority for Advance Ruling (AAAR) and decisions made by the Revisional Authority. 
    2. Dispute Resolution: One of GSTAT’s primary functions is to provide an independent and efficient mechanism for resolving disputes related to GST. Taxpayers can approach the tribunal to challenge decisions they believe are incorrect or unjust.
    3. Interpretation of Law: It plays a crucial role in interpreting various provisions of the GST law. Its decisions help clarify legal issues and establish precedents that guide taxpayers and tax authorities in compliance with GST regulations. 
    4. Appellate Authority: It acts as the final appellate authority in GST matters, providing a platform for taxpayers to seek redressal beyond the initial stages of adjudication. Its decisions are binding on taxpayers and tax authorities, subject to any further appeal to higher courts. 
    5. Speedy Disposal: The tribunal is tasked with ensuring the speedy disposal of appeals, thereby reducing the backlog of cases and providing timely resolution to taxpayers. This helps in maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the GST system.
    6. Technical Expertise: GSTAT comprises judicial and technical members, ensuring it has the expertise to adjudicate complex GST matters. The technical members often possess specialised knowledge in accounting, taxation, and commerce, enabling them to make informed decisions. 

GSTAT’s proceedings and decisions will soon be transparent and publicly available. This transparency will foster trust in the tax administration system and allow stakeholders to understand the rationale behind tribunal rulings. GSTAT’s rulings establish legal precedents that guide future interpretations of GST laws. These precedents will help taxpayers and tax authorities anticipate how similar cases may be decided, thereby promoting consistency and predictability in tax compliance.

About the Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017:

The Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (GST Act) is a comprehensive legislation enacted by the Government of India to overhaul the country’s indirect tax system. It came into effect on July 1, 2017.

The GST Act introduces a unified tax structure to create a single, nationwide market by subsuming various indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments. Under the GST Act, the central and state governments have the authority to levy and collect GST on the supply of goods and services. This dual GST model consists of Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) levied by the central government and State Goods and Services Tax (SGST) levied by the state governments. 

GST operates on the destination-based consumption taxation model, differing from the current origin-based tax system. The rates for CGST, SGST, and IGST are determined through mutual agreement between the Central and State governments based on recommendations from the GST Council. Initially, GST was levied at four rates: 5%, 12%, 16%, and 28%. The GST Council has worked out the schedule or list of items that would fall under these multiple slabs. 

Article 279A establishes the GST Council, chaired by the Union Finance Minister and including state-nominated ministers. The central government holds 1/3 of the voting power, while states hold 2/3. Decisions require a 3/4 majority.


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Prelims Practice Question:

Q. With reference to the GST Appellate Tribunal, consider the following statements: 

  1. The GST Appellate Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body to resolve disputes related to GST laws at the appellate level.
  2. The president of the Tribunal must be a Supreme Court judge or have served as the chief justice of the High Court. 
  3. The tribunal is equivalent to a Civil Court for trying a case.

How many of the above statement/s is/are correct?

A. Only one

B. Only two

C. All three

D. None


Mains Practice Question: 

Q. What is the importance of the GST Appellate Tribunal in the context of tax dispute resolution in India? How does the GST Appellate Tribunal ensure impartiality and fairness in its decision-making process?

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