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Tax tribunal's bench decides record 600 cases in 2 months
April, 10th 2007

The East Zonal bench of the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (Cestat), which had become nearly defunct last year after one member retired and the other took voluntary retirement, has roared back into action with two new members in place.

The new bench of Dr Chittaranjan Satapathy and DN Panda, since it began functioning in the first week of February 2007, has already decided over 600 appeals, an average of 300 per month.

Sources said that, apart from these appeals, the bench, which serves the eastern and north-eastern states, has also decided around 225 stay applications in these two months.

Even as it created a sort of national record, the Cestat bench is taking to the internet aggressively to make its functioning transparent and help litigants save time. The number of cases cleared is more than what has been done by any of the three benches in New Delhi, the three in Mumbai and the ones in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

Dr Satapathy, a former commissioner of customs, joined the Cestat in 2002 and served the benches in Delhi and Mumbai. The technical member of the bench, he has also represented India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the WCO. Panda, the judicial member, is a chartered accountant and lawyer and joined the Cestat recently.

With the help of the National Informatics Centre, it has begun posting its cause list on its website, and e-mailing the list to the chief commissioners of custom, excise and service tax, as well as to the bar associations, under its area.

The orders are also being despatched within a day or two to all the parties concerned as well as to several tax journals.

The sources said the authorities would soon get 10 computers connected to the internet with the help of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) so that orders can be uploaded on the Cestat website without delay.

This will help applicants in all the states in the eastern zone access and download the orders.

The NIC is also helping the Cestat bench automate the functioning of the registry so that applicants can track the progress of their appeals and stay petitions online.

Despite the speedy decisions, around 2250 are still pending, taking into account the new cases that land before the Cestat bench.

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