Faced with a mounting number of pending cases, the Sales Tax Tribunal Bar Association has moved the Bombay high court claiming that the backlog of cases is because the state government has not acted upon filling vacant posts in the tribunal. The petitioners submitted before a division bench of justice PB Majumdar and justice Mridula Bhatkar that only two benches of the tribunal were functioning and that cases involving revenue to the tune of Rs4,000 crore were pending with the tribunal.
According to the petition, in January 2011, the president of the tribunal requested the principal secretary of the department of finance to fill vacancies and appoint more members. However, in February this year, the finance department dissolved two benches of the tribunal. Piyush Shah, an advocate for the petitioner, contended that the dissolving of the benches had resulted in the pile-up of pending cases.
The petitioners said that the state government had not taken a reasonable approach in the matter, and had not given due consideration to the fact that the tribunal should be allowed to function smoothly, by appointing an adequate number of benches. It further states that despite repeated request by the president of the tribunal and representations before the principal secretary and state chief minister, the vacancies are yet to be filled.
The petition also points out that even though Value Added Tax was implemented in the state in 2002, this move was not followed up by an increase in the number of members and other judicial officers. The state has sought time to file its reply in the matter. The court has given the government till December 7 to state the number of vacancies to be filled, and details of the revenue involved in the pending cases. The court will also consider if the petition needs to be treated as a public interest litigation.