In Writ Petition No. 9575 of 2017 and Writ Petition No. 10284 of 2018 in the matter of Sales Tax Bar Association v. Union of India which were listed today before Hon’ble Delhi High Court. The Hon’ble High Court directed the GSTN to correct the functioning of the GSTN Portal and issued notices returnable on 20.02.2020 to Infosys and Tech Mahindra, (the IT Support contractors of the GSTN portal). The above said petitions have been filed in regard to the GSTN Portal glitches/improper functioning/non availability of the functionalities/issue of refunds etc.
The matter was argued before the bench in which the Advocate on behalf of Petitioner apprised the Court of various issues which are being faced by number of tax payers and tax professionals due to the inefficient working of the GSTN Portal.
The issues which were raised before the Hon’ble Bench were:
- Non-availability of GSTR 9, 9A & 9C for the FY 2018-19 despite the last date of 31.03.2020 which has been extended from 31.12.2019. We showed the Notification No. 74 of 2018 which came on 31.12.2018, with regard to notifying/substituting of GSTR 9 & 9C, but GSTN Portal has still not made the GSTR 9 and 9C form functional on the portal for the FY 18-19.
- Though the mobile numbers and email addresses of the Nodal Officers have been uploaded on the gov.in website, but it is uploaded on the “News and Update” Section, therefore it is not permanent and will soon cease to exist.
- Inefficient working of the Portal resulting in non-filing or late filing of the GSTR 3B returns and other returns. We informed the Court that Portal takes a lot of time to send OTP in order to finalize the return. We also showed various screenshots which we have received from various tax professionals depicting the failure/non-working of Server.
- No history of the ticket raised, query asked or answer received. We informed the Court that in many cases, assessing officer requires us to produce evidences of our efforts to make correspondence with the departments, failing which the assessee often been alleged with the case of fraud/disclosure.
The Bench heard the arguments in detail and passed an order directing Respondents to:
- Publish the name, email ids and numbers of the nodal officers on the Home Page of the gov.in website permanently.
- The Court noticed that dates for the GSTR 9 and 9C for the FY 17-18 has been extended from time to time and presently it has been extended to 31.01.2020. Even today assessees are facing snags while filing the returns. Despite the GSTR 9, 9A and 9C being notified vide notification no. 49 of 2018 and substituted vide notification no. 74 of 2018, for FY 18-19, the forms have not been made functional yet, this is failure on part of GSTN and the last date for filing the return for FY 18-19 have been extended to 31.03.2020. The Respondent informed the Court that they have not made GSTR 9 and 9C functional for the FY 18-19 because they want assessees to first file return for the FY 17-18 without any confusion. The Court out rightly rejected this Contention and stated that assessees who are able and could have filed the return for the FY 18-19 in April 2019, if it was available, were prevented from filing the same. This is failure on the part of GSTN. The GSTN must ensure that the functionalities must be available to assessees promptly and not on the last day of the Financial Year. Assessees must not wait for the forms till the end of the Financial Year. The Court also directed the Respondents to upload the GSTR 9, 9A and 9C for the FY 17-18 and 18-19 simultaneously on the Portal.
- The Court noted the fact that numerous issues were raised in the petition and several were solved however, there are several issues which are still pending and causing great hardship to the assessees.
- On the issues of the ticket raised history, query asked and answer provided, the Hon’ble Court was informed that a new vendor has been selected in order to entertain the grievances of assessees. The Court directed the Respondents to expedite the process.
- On the issue of the non-functioning/improper or inefficient functioning of the GSTN Portal, it was informed by the Respondents that providing resolutions and maintaining the server for IT Support are being managed by Infosys and Tech Mahindra. The Court directed the Respondents to Correct the functioning of the GSTN Portal and issued notice to Infosys and Tech Mahindra to be present on the next date of hearing with a view to appreciate intricacies of the issues being faced by the assessees and avoid any communication gap, on account of Petitioner’s grievances and in order to implement the directions of Order dated 18.09.2019 in Para 8:
“The grievances which are received at the level of the Nodal Officer should be compiled, and a status report in relation to the said grievances should be displayed on the concerned websites on a fortnightly basis. The same should contain information with regard to the substance of the grievances made; the date of which it made; the action taken on the said grievance, the status as to whether the same is resolved, pending, or not; and if the same is not resolved, the reason for it not being so resolved. It should also indicate the approximate time in which the grievance is likely to be resolved. If the grievance is rejected, for whatever reason, the status of it being rejected, and the reason for rejection should also been indicated. The grievances raised by the public at large or by the petitioner association should be redressed as early as possible, and preferably within two weeks of the same being so raised.”
The notices under dasti are being issued to Infosys and Tech Mahindra returnable on 20.02.2020.
The Court also directed the Respondents to place on record the deliberations of GST wing policy and recommendations of GST Council which were presented/ discussed and how resolution was provided in the meeting held on 31.10.2019 with regard to the issues raised during the meetings which were conducted between the Respondents and the Petitioners.
The order is available here: STBA-DHC-23.01.2020
The matter was argued by Advocate Puneet Agrawal (Partner ALA Legal) and represented by Team STBA.