The Centre has issued a notification to set up 31 benches of Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunals (GSTAT). The move is expected to help businesses resolve various disputes in an efficient manner.

On February 18, the GST Council recommended to set up GSTAT with one Principal Bench and a number of State Benches. According to experts, the Principal Bench in New Delhi and regional Benches in different States will provide a unified structure to Tribunals.

This will also help in resolving thousands of matters that are to be heard by Tribunals.

According to the notification, Uttar Pradesh will have three Benches, highest in any given State in the country. Other larger States, such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, will have two benches each. The Principal Bench will take up matters related to inter-State disputes, while Benches in States will take up all other issues, including rates. The aggrieved parties can move to High Courts and Supreme Court.

Commenting on the development, Rajat Mohan, Senior Partner, with AMRG & Associates, said the delay in the formation of Tribunals in India has been a matter of concern since the introduction of the GST regime in July 2017.

GST Tribunals are envisioned as specialised bodies to handle disputes related to GST, providing a timely and efficient resolution mechanism. However, several legal, administrative and constitutional challenges have contributed to the delay in their establishment.

GST Tribunals are essential for resolving tax matters due to their importance in providing an impartial, expert, and efficient forum for addressing tax disputes. They play a crucial role in ensuring fairness, accountability, and the rule of law in tax administration.

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In the first phase, 31 Tribunals will be set up in all major cities across the country to help resolve tax disputes and reduce the strain on jurisdictional High Courts.

“It is comforting to know that in phase one, 7 Sister States, sometimes known as “Paradise Unexplored,” would also have a GST tribunal,” Mohan said.

The next step would be to find acceptable places for Tribunals, nominate qualified members, and provide the necessary infrastructure and resources, he added.

Chandrajit Banerjee, DG at CII says this move will bring a great relief to the Industry. In the absence of these tribunals, businesses had to approach the High Courts, which, in general, proved to be a long drawn process and costly affair, while also adding the pressure on already overburdened High Courts.

“This move, by way of ensuring speedier and economic resolution of cases by dedicated and specialized GSTATs, will help in bolstering business sentiments and ease of doing business in the country. The number of appeals against the orders of first Appellate Authorities has been rising sharply, which in the last 2 years alone moved up by more than double from 5,499 in 2020-21 to 11,899 cases in 2022-23,” Banerjee explained.