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CBEC directs officers to appeal orders where levy is questioned Courtesy : Indian Express

In wake of the recent petitions being filed in high courts challenging various aspects of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) on Monday directed its officials to appeal all high court orders, where the levy of GST has been questioned or stayed, through Special Leave Petitions in the Supreme Court. The CBEC has also asked its officers to “efficaciously defend” all matters in interest of government.

The CBEC in an instruction issued to all principal chief commissioners and chief commissioners of Customs and GST said that principally, all orders/judgments, whether interim or final, are appealable. “Where the levy of GST has been questioned or stayed, irrespective of the fact that matter is still pending before the High Court, the same needs to be challenged by way of filing of a SLP (Special Leave Petition) before the Supreme Court,” it said.

It has asked officials to expeditiously send self-contained proposals after thoroughly examining the “impugned High Court” orders to CBEC Commissioner (Legal).

The CBEC in its instruction said that the Supreme Court allows SLP only when there is a substantial question of law of general or public importance or there is manifest injustice resulting from the impugned order or judgment.

The instruction also said, “After the implementation of GST with effect from July 1, 2017 a number of writ petitions/PILs have been filed in various High Courts challenging or seeking clarification on various aspects of GST law and rate of tax on some products. Recently, a High Court in few cases relating to GST, has granted interim relief by directing that no coercive steps would be taken to recover tax or credit, pending the outcome of the petition filed. As GST is at its inception stage, it is important to defend the issues effectively to defend the interest of government.”

The instruction, which has been issued with the approval of CBEC Chairman, further said that all Principal Chief Commissioners/ Chief Commissioners and Principal Director Generals/ Director Generals have been told to take all measures necessary to efficaciously defend all matters and in particular, GST-related petitions in High Courts under their respective jurisdictions.

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During my 37-year-old career with Income Tax department, I moved from place to place, post to post. For me, every posting was a challenge, and at the same time an opportunity to deliver.

After my retirement as Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes, I was invited by various institutions and NGOs to deliver talks on tax matters. While advising taxpayers across sectors, I noticed, our vast salaried class including armed and paramilitary forces, pensioners or senior citizens, NRIs, professionals and small business establishments need the right guidance. Most taxpayers do comply with their tax obligations fully. Yet, they are not somehow relaxed and are burdened with anxieties. A large number of taxpayers are not even aware that getting tax refund on time is a basic right.

In one such meeting, a middle-aged man quizzed me why could not I give tax advice 24X7. For a moment, I had no answer. He then added that I should give tax solutions online so that he does not need to come from a remote place to attend my lecture. I thanked him for his suggestion.

For a while I was restless. Already I had got myself enrolled as a Member of the Bar Council of Delhi and as an Advocate of Delhi High Court Bar Association, thanks to my law degree from the University of Allahabad. Yet, I was not sure how I could help the vast majority of taxpayers who somehow maintain a safe distance from the taxmen. I then tossed the idea of creating a tax think-tank with some of my former colleagues and highly spirited individuals. All of us immediately agreed on one count: millions of Indian taxpayers expect to access tailor-made tax research materials and seek guidance from those who have been parts of the tax machinery for decades.

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