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Six new appellate tribunal benches for faster disposal of indirect tax cases
October, 18th 2013

The government will set up six new benches of the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) to expedite disposal of indirect tax cases. Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Allahabad will get a CESTAT bench each for the first time, while New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai will get an additional bench.

The decision, approved by the Cabinet here on Thursday, will facilitate the cause of the government as well as litigants, by reducing travel time and expenditure, an official statement said. “With the creation of six additional benches of CESTAT, disposal of cases will increase and pendency will decrease benefitting government and tax payers,” the statement noted. In all, the posts of 12 tribunal members (six technical and six judicial) in the higher administrative grade and 98 posts of supporting staff, including deputy registrar and assistant registrar, will be created.

“The creation of additional new benches of the CESTAT would amount to a one-time expenditure of Rs 3.45 crore, while the recurring expenditure would be Rs 10 crore per annum,” the statement noted.

At present, CESTAT has three benches each in Delhi and Mumbai and one each at Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. The headquarters and the principal bench are in Delhi.

Preferential Market Access policy
A policy reserving a stipulated percentage of government procurement of electronics for domestically manufactured items has also been given the go-ahead, Press Trust of India reported, citing sources. This is a revised version of the Preferential Market Access policy, kept in abeyance after the government faced pressure from multinational companies and trade groups.

Business Standard had reported earlier this week that according to a Cabinet note, the ministry proposed the extant policy would not be applied to electronic products having security implications and a “separate framework” would be developed for procurement of these. However, all other provisions with respect to procurement of electronic goods for government use would remain unchanged. The policy will also apply to defence.

While the move will mean the relief extended to telecom equipment manufacturers will continue, the revised proposal would have an impact on foreign electronic goods makers, which have called the policy unfair and restrictive.

Officials of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology could not be reached for a comment.

Other Decisions:

Visa Norms for Chinese Travellers:

The Cabinet deferred a decision on liberalisation of visa norms for Chinese nationals, especially business persons. The decision was deferred even as it was expected to be on the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Beijing next week.

A proposal to this effect sought to liberalise the policy due to expansion in trade between the two countries and subsequent increase in visits by Chinese businessmen. These visitors belong mainly to the Information Technology (IT) and infrastructure sectors.

Singh will reach Beijing on October 22 and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China on this issue was supposed to be on his agenda.

Committee on Babhali Barrage

Following directions of the Supreme Court, the Cabinet approved the appointment of a three-member supervisory committee, headed by a representative of the Central Water Commission, on the Babhali Barrage issue.

The apex court had given directions to the government on February 28 to form the body.

The Committee will comprise one representative from the Central Water Commission, who will be the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee, and one representative each from the state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Andhra Pradesh is objecting to the construction of Babhali barrage by Maharashtra in the submergence area of Sriram Sagar Project. It has maintained that this is in violation of the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal award.

Andhra Pradesh had complained to the Centre on this issue in May, 2005. But the matter could not be resolved despite meetings by Central Water Commission between the two states.

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