Dated 30th April, 2020

 
The taxability dispute on ocean freight has been finally decided by the Gujarat High Court, which held that taxing ocean freight is ultra vires and leads to double-taxation

Guidelines for conducting personal hearing in virtual mode


CBIC has taken various measures for easy facilitation of trade in the pandemic of Covid-19. Recently, the Government has taken yet another measure with the implementation of virtual customs working environment for areas not covered by the Customs ICES EDI system/ ICEGATE online gateway.  Board has decided that personal hearing in respect of any proceedings under the Customs Act,1962, given by various authorities viz. like Commissioner (Appeals), original adjudicating authorities, compounding authorities may be done through  video conferencing facility.  Moreover, the aforesaid facility would also be extended to Central Excise Act, 1944 and Chapter V of Finance Act, 1994. The board has issued guidelines for the conduct of such virtual mode of personal hearing which is recapitulated herein below: 

Guidelines for Virtual personal hearing:

  1. Appellant/respondent must give consent for taking facility of personal hearing through video conferencing at the time of filing appeal or immediately after issue of instruction1 in case of pending appeals/adjudication matter. E-mail id should be given. In case the appellant wants to participate in the virtual hearing proceedings along with their advocate, then they must inform the authority in advance.
  2. Date and time of hearing along with the link for video conference will be given in advance to the appellant/ respondent/ consultant/ counsel and the concerned Commissioner through official e-mail/ electronic media of authority. Also details of officer-in-charge who will help in conducting the virtual hearing will be provided. Such link should not be shared with anyone without the approval of the authority.
  3. Authorized representative appearing on behalf of the party must file the scanned copy of authorization letter/vakalatnama along with copy of photo ID and contact details to the authority through official e-mail of the concerned authority. Persons participating should be properly dressed to maintain the decorum of the hearing.
  4. Such virtual hearing will be held from the office of adjudicating/appellate authority or any official video conferencing facility set up in the office of such authority.
  5. Virtual hearing through video conferencing will be conducted through applications like VIDYO, or other secured computer network. Appellant must download such application in their PCs/laptops/mobiles before hand for connectivity during such hearing and join the video conference at the time allotted to them.
  6. Submissions made through the video conference will be noted in writing and a statement of the same will be prepared which shall be known as “record of personal hearing”. Soft copy of such record in pdf format will be sent to the appellant through e-mail ID, within one day of such hearing.
  7. Modification in the contents of e-mailed record of personal hearing can be done by modifying record, scanning and sending it back to the concerned authority. Such documents need to be shared within 3 days of virtual hearing. If no modification is done within the stipulated period of 3 days it will be deemed that contents of ‘record of personal hearing’ has been agreed.
  8. Such record of personal hearing shall be deemed to be a document for the purpose of              Section 138C of the Customs Act,1962 read with Section 4 of Information Technology Act,2000. Moreover, if the party/ advocate want to share any additional submission the same may be emailed to the authority within 3 days of virtual hearing. For this purpose the date of hearing will be excluded.
  9. Any official representing the department can also participate in the virtual hearing through video conferencing. Concerned commissionerate shall inform the details of such participation in advance.

CONCLUSION

The objective of the Government for implementation of virtual personal hearing will help in expeditious completion of customs appeals and adjudication proceedings during the pandemic of Covid 19 to curb social distancing. This might also help the importers, exporters and their authorized representative to perform their work at ease from a place of their choice.

1Instruction - F.No.390/Misc/3/2019-JC dated 27.04.2020


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Twenty years of experience in tax practice. Specialist in structuring & planning and tax optimization under indirect tax. Lead eastern India indirect tax practice of Ernst & Young in past.