Nagpur: The central government has approved three sales tax benches for Maharashtra, of which one would be set up in Nagpur. The state finance secretary informed this development to the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, on Thursday, during the hearing of a PIL seeking a permanent bench of Maharashtra Sales Tax Tribunal in the city.
Lawyers, chartered accountants (CAs) and various sales tax practitioners among others had knocked judiciary’s doors earlier. They contended that since the tribunal is located in Mumbai and with no other permanent benches in the state, they and the litigants had travel nearly 900 kms for the hearing. This contributed to the pendency.
A division bench comprising justices Bhushan Gavai and Atul Chandurkar then directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that the Sales Tax bench would work in the city in April, May and June, with a view to reduce piling up of cases. The judges then adjourned the hearing by two weeks.
Earlier, the secretary informed that the government had made an allocation for setting up three permanent benches during this year’s budget.
The judges then asked the state to make a provision for the bench in upcoming L-shaped building at Nagpur District and Sessions Court premises. They added the collector as the respondent since powers to allocate offices in building are vested with him.
The petitioners while citing RTI reply, pointed out that there are over 770 pending appeals in Vidarbha. They argued that the process of challenging an assessment is a long and tedious one. With no local benches, the legal practitioners often need to make around five to six trips to Mumbai to challenge a first appeal against the tax assessment.
This coupled with lodging and travelling expenses, makes the entire process overly expensive and burdensome for the small dealers. They move to the Sales Tax Tribunal only if the dispute involves high stakes.
The petitioners claim that they had a meeting with state finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar who promised them some positive action. They also approached chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard. After failing to get any response, they moved to the judiciary for intervention seeking at least a rotation bench of tribunal, till the PIL is decided upon.