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CBEC for greater industry say in regional advisory panels
October, 10th 2011

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has decided to facilitate greater participation of the representatives of the trade and industry in regional advisory committees (RACs) and also to raise the quality of deliberations in the forum.

The functions of RACs are purely advisory in nature intended to resolve procedural difficulties of general nature at the local level. Although the first guidelines for constitution of RACs were issued in 1975, the overall performance of the committees has been rather mixed. Few RACs get knowledgeable representatives from trade. Quite often, the trade representatives are not aware of the problems faced by a cross section of assessees. Many assessees prefer not to put their problems to the RACs. In many commissionerates, meetings of RACs are not held for want of any points to be discussed. Wherever genuine difficulties are raised, some commissioners prefer to give evasive answers or bounce off the issue to the CBEC.
Earlier instructions of the CBEC asked for constitution of an RAC for the organised sector and a separate RAC for small-scale industries in each of the central excise commissionerate. Now, the CBEC has directed that a single such committee may be constituted for both the organised sector as well as the small-scale industry by the zonal chief commissioner for the entire zone and not for individual commissionerates under his jurisdiction.

Every RAC for the organised sector could have 12 members and it was open for the commissioner to co-opt not more than three members for a specified period or for any particular meeting. Similarly, the RAC for small-scale industries consisted of not more than eight members and not more than two members could be co-opted for a specific period or for any particular meeting. Now, the CBEC has decided that the number of members in the RAC may be raised to 16, so that all the registered trade associations and chambers within the zone are adequately represented. Representatives of the state government, manufacturers, small-scale industries, exporters association and public sector undertakings, etc., may also be included in the RAC. Further, the chief commissioner has also been empowered to co-opt three members from the industry or assessee group important from the zonal point of view for a specific period or for a particular meeting.

The RAC meetings were being chaired by the commissioner and held once in three months for the organised sector and once in six months for small-scale industries. Now, the CBEC has said the RAC meetings should be convened on a quarterly basis under the chairmanship of the zonal chief commissioner and in respect of the zones covering commissionerates in different cities, the chief commissioner may, in his discretion, hold the RAC meetings at different commissionerate headquarters, if so felt necessary.

Earlier, the RAC meetings were being presided over by the commissioners. Henceforth, as the RACs are being constituted at the zonal level, the chief commissioner should preside over the RAC meetings, says the CBEC.

The Board hopes that the constitution of the RAC at the zonal level will ensure uniformity of action within the zone and expeditious implementation of the decisions taken in such meetings. Much depends on the selection of trade representatives and their keenness to understand the problems faced by other assessees and ability to represent their issues effectively.

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