By Hansa Sinha
After working in the field of trade law in addition to High Court and Supreme Court, there is one more forum that I have become familiar with. The forum is CESTAT, i.e. Customs, Excise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal. It was established in 1982 as CEGAT i.e. Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal. When the Gold (Control) Act, 1962 was scrapped and Service Tax was introduced by Finance Act, 1994, CEGAT was changed to CESTAT. This amounted to enhancing the jurisdiction to make sure that service tax cases have a place called home. Nestled in the cozy lanes of R.K. Puram in West Block, 2 (Hyatt Delhi Road is your landmark), it is the Final Appellate Authority, except in matters relating to classifications and valuation of goods. However a reference to High Court can be made on question of law. Also a party may appeal to Hon’ble Supreme Court only in classification and valuation matters. I am truly getting ahead of myself here!
There are several benches of this tribunal all over India with three of them in Delhi itself. At RK Puram, there is an Anti Dumping Bench which sits for a week at a time.This is the only bench for Anti Dumping in the country. In Safeguard cases there is no Appellate authority so those cases obviously don’t come to CESTAT. The time gap between the first and the second sitting may differ from anything between a month to well anything. Three persons constitute the Anti Dumping Bench. Presently it composed by the President (Mr. G. Raghuram), a technical member (Mr.R.K. Singh) and a judicial member (Ms. Sulekha Beevi). The cases are listed and heard normally in Court no. 1 which is on the 1st Floor of this otherwise 4 floor establishment. Next to court room no.1 there is an adequate library with several books on related tax matters with a warm and helpful staff. This is important because this is where you will run to catch hold of ELT, or a customs manual, in between the hearing of your case when prompted for an urgent reference. For the ones who are better prepared, well EXCUS is your best friend for presenting cases before the bench. EXCUS works well as one may not easily catch hold of the decisions on the website. You can utilize India Kanoon as well, but this is definitely the best deal. This bench usually sits from 10.30 am to 1.30 pm and then from 2.30 pm to 4.15 pm although it may get extended to 5.
Apart from the library, there would be inspection of files and other miscellaneous jobs that will be facilitated by the Assistant Registrar pertaining to Anti Dumping matter sitting in Wing no.6 on 2nd Floor and the Registrar who sits on the Wing 2 (umm most probably) on the same floor.
Did I miss anything? Oh yes, the yummy chilli omelette- bread from the CESTAT canteen. It will more than compensate for all the running around that you do and satiate hunger pangs. I am not a tea lover but there is that too. There you are. You are sorted for your next visit to CESTAT.