Incidentally some interesting(ed) titbits here (for laughs ?)
CESTAT has no Funds for basic requirements (Reminded of Mr.Barak Obama ?)
OUR report CESTAT Mumbai has no money to dispatch notices/letters in DDT 2272-15.01.2014 was only a tip of the proverbial iceberg. Much before the Mumbai Circular, the Chennai CESTAT had issued a notice dated 06.12.2013 to the effect that, due to acute shortage of funds and due to mandatory reduction in the budget allocation, notices for hearing, appeal memos, defect notices etc., would be sent by ordinary post and Cause List from the CESTAT website/Notice Board may be viewed for all purposes .
Enquiry by TIOL reporters has revealed that all the Benches of the CESTAT are facing similar problem of acute shortage of funds and postage is not the only casualty; they have no money to pay for telephone bills, electricity bills, hiring cars for the Members….. They are deep in debts to several agencies - Public and Private and are running the show by requesting the debtors to bear with them till the financial position improves and whenever some funds are received, they are immediately exhausted for paying outstanding bills and again they are in debts. It seems some bills pertaining to May 2013 are yet to be paid.
What will happen if the Electricity Board cuts off power, the Telephone Company disconnects the phones and the Cabs Company stops the cars for the Hon'ble Members. Will they close down the Tribunal because they can't pay the bills?
Drastic expenditure cuts are being put in place like in one Bench, they have stopped typing the orders in double space and are now doing it in single space to save paper and postage!
There is a mandatory ten percent cut in expenditure imposed by the Government in all departments. This cut is blindly extended to the Tribunal also, where it is neither practically feasible nor physically possible. The number of appeals and applications received this year are nearly more than double those received in the previous year; then how do you implement a ten percent cut in expenditure?
CESTAT need not be in such pathetic condition - after all it collects a lot of money as fees from private litigants - if the amount of fees collected is not enough to meet the expenditure, let them increase the fees, but let the Tribunal retain the fees for its expenditure.
The Government treats the CESTAT as a subordinate office of the Revenue Department and not a very important one at that - and that is the reason for this kind of poverty for the Tribunal, which deals with the richest cases in India. The Tribunal cannot be at the mercy of the Revenue Department for its funds - we should devise an alternate mechanism - there should be some financial autonomy for the Tribunal. The whole issue boils down to a couple of crores for lack of which we are facing all these problems. Advocate Gururaj of Bangalore says in our Message Board that Counsels and litigants can contribute - maybe we should ask Commissioners to contribute immediately - after all they cause all the litigation in the Tribunal.
Arrests under Service Tax
WITH the VCES ending some Service Tax wings have become active in arresting alleged evaders.
We understand that a Service Tax assessee who failed to pay the first instalment under VCES has been arrested in Mumbai for alleged Service Tax evasion of nearly three Crores rupees.
Another assessee has been arrested in Bangalore for alleged evasion of about Rs. 1.16 Crores.
No Budget in February
IT is now clear that there would be no Budget presentation on February 28 as usual. The Government is planning an extended winter session of Parliament from February 5 to 21 and the vote on account is planned on February 17. So, there would be no budget exercises and the babus in North Block can relax. Of course this does not mean the Government cannot announce sops even without a budget.
There is going to be a constitutional crisis when Parliament meets on February 5. As per Article 87 of the Constitution, at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President is supposed to address a Joint sitting of both the Houses. But the BJP Government did not follow this provision in 2004. Will the President address the First session of the year and the last session of the present LokSabha?
19th January 2014 From India, Bangalore