Having remained in coma since its inception more than two years ago, the Commercial Tax Department’s Settlement Commission supposed to settle disputes between traders and the department may finally start functioning now and with a wider jurisdiction spreading to a few more departments later.
Set up in September 2008 under the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, the Settlement Commission was given the power to entertain any trader’s appeal against the penalty of more than Rs. one lakh imposed by the Commercial Tax Department. The idea was obviously to quickly settle disputes which otherwise go to courts where both traders and the department have to fight
a protracted legal battle.
However, the Commission has been of no use till now, though the Government has coughed up lakhs of rupees as the monthly establishment cost.
“Not a single appeal has been filed to it till date largely because it hardly exists for all practical reasons,” disclosed a senior official adding, “The Government did appoint its chairman but did not give any other member hamstringing it from functioning for lack of quorum. Also, the Commission is yet to get an office in Lucknow and its Chairman, a retired High Court Judge is operating from his residence in Allahabad.”
But traders can now look forward to the Commission starting functioning to give them ‘speedy justice’ with the State Government having appointed a member on the Commission, at last. A retired trade tax official, Bhawar Singh was last week appointed member of the Commission that already has Justice Anjani Kumar as its chairman.
But what is more important is that the Government is planning widening the Commission’s jurisdiction encompassing departments like the Entertainment and the Registration. At present, the Commission can entertain cases relating to the VAT only and cannot hear even the disputes that emerged during the trade tax regime. In a bid to increase its revenue (penalty) that is often not recovered for years from traders due to legal wrangling, the Government is planning giving an option to people for an out of court settlement.
“We will bring a new legislation authorising the Settlement Commission to entertain appeals against the Entertainment and the Registration departments too,” Principal Secretary (Tax and Registration) Desh Deepak Verma, confirmed when contacted.
He said the Commission will also be authorized to settle over 500 old appeals that the Commercial Tax Department had got before VAT came into force on January 1, 2008. Verma said the Commission was not getting appeals because it was supposed to entertain only new appeals under the VAT and “disputes had probably not taken place so far. “But now we hope the Commission to start functioning properly as it has got its member too,” he said.