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August 29, 2023

Disallowed GST Refund Claim by Bharti Airtel Ltd. – Union of India vs. Bharti Airtel Ltd.

Disallowed GST Refund Claim by Bharti Airtel Ltd. – Union of India vs. Bharti Airtel Ltd.


This legal case involves Bharti Airtel Ltd. and their claim for a refund of ₹923 crore in Goods and Services Tax (GST). The claim, which was initially granted by the High Court, has been overturned by the Supreme Court.


The case pertains to the period between July 2017 and September 2017. Bharti Airtel faced challenges with the online GST Portal while filing GSTR Form 3B. During this period, Bharti Airtel alleges that they overpaid ₹923 crore as GST due to issues with the online portal and is seeking a refund for the excess amount.

Case Facts:

Bharti Airtel contends that technical glitches in the online GST Portal hindered their ability to file returns for the mentioned period. The primary problem was encountered while filing GSTR Form 3B due to multiple disruptions in the online GST Portal. As a result of these difficulties, Bharti Airtel ended up making an extra payment of ₹923 crore and is now requesting a refund for this overpaid amount.

Key Issue:

The central issue is whether rectification of errors in filing returns is permissible at the initial stages.


It is argued that the registered taxpayer is not denied the chance to rectify omissions or incorrect details, which can be done during the monthly or quarterly returns. The Input Tax Credit (ITC) is not denied but is rather postponed, remaining in the electronic credit ledger.

Section 39(9) along with Rule 61 provide an explicit mechanism, indicating that the High Court should not have assumed that Bharti Airtel must rectify returns in Form GSTR3B to utilize the input tax credit. Allowing such rectifications in the current system would lead to cascading effects, creating chaos and potentially disrupting tax administration.

The process of matching and correction is automated through mechanisms specified in Sections 37 and 38, leading to the generation of Form GSTR3 for return purposes. After submission, any alterations would have cascading consequences. The law allows rectification of errors and omissions solely at the initial stages of Form GSTR1 and GSTR3 in a specific manner.

Observation and Judgment:

The challenge to the circular dated December 29, 2017, is deemed unsubstantiated. The circular’s paragraph 4 aligns with the provisions of the Act. The High Court need not have interpreted paragraph 4 differently.

The High Court’s direction, in the form of a writ of mandamus, to Bharti Airtel to rectify Form GSTR3B for the July to September 2017 period, despite strict statutory requirements, is deemed unsustainable.

The High Court’s ruling pertains only to the interpretation of the December 29, 2017 circular. The Union of India’s appeal is accepted, and the High Court’s judgment and order are dismissed without any cost implications.


Taxpayers have the capability to maintain their records both manually and electronically. The online portal is an additional convenience, serving as a backup. The taxpayer’s primary records remain with them, and any issues with the online portal should prompt a return to traditional methods of record-keeping. The presence of online portal glitches does not render the taxpayer helpless; they possess the means to overcome such challenges.

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