GST and Excise Department will conduct Virtual hearing on WhatsApp Know Process to Follow
The directions are as per the instructions from Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) issued in April, permitting field offices for conducting hearings in customs, excise, GST and service tax pending show cause notices, appeal cases, etc via video conference with the consent of the appellant or respondent.
Keeping in view the situation arising due to COVID 19 and the necessity to comply with the norms of social distancing, it is considered necessary to conduct personal hearing in virtual mode, in respect of demand notices pending adjudication before the undersigned. It is brought to the notice of all concerned that even Hon’ble Supreme Court has emphasized on the needs to device means and ways to follow the norms of social distancing.
In the light of the situation arising and the Instruction under reference, it has been decided to conduct “Personal Hearing” in respect of all demand notices through video conferencing. Till further arrangements are made, the mode adopted will be through some popular social media platform because of its huge reach amongst common people. WHATSAPP video conferencing has been considered as on such suitable mode for video conferencing because it also has ‘end to end encryption’.
The state GST authority has stated that all the parties must give their agreement for virtual hearing via Whatsapp Video Conferencing and provide Whatsapp number for the same. Followed by this, the authority will notify the date and time of the hearing, which will have to be confirmed by the noticees a day in advance, while a noticee will have to confirm his or her presence for the hearing 15 minutes prior to the given date and time, via text by the given Whatsapp Number.
Whatsapp communication will also be used by the authorities for sending out personal hearing memos in PDF form after the hearings conclude. These will have to be signed by the noticee or noticees concerned and sent back to the authority on the same Whatsapp number, within 15 minutes of receipt.
The Standard procedure to be adopted is as under
a. All noticee(s), in their written submission have to clearly indicate whether they are agreeable to conduct of personal hearing in virtual mode, and, provide WHATSAPP number of their “authorized signatory’
b. The notice(s) will be provided with the WHATSAPP number through which personal hearing will be conducted on virtual mode with date and time.
c. The noticee(s), should confirm their availability by text message to the WHATSAPP number provided to them, at least one day prior to the scheduled hearing, giving reference of file number, name & designation of the persons likely to attend the hearing and WHATSAPP number of all such persons and also the name of primary person to be contacted. Vakalatnama, authorization letters etc. duly signed should be send in PDF form on WHATSAPP number provided for this purpose.
d. The noticee(s), should send text message on WHATSAPP number ‘15’ minutes prior to the given time on the date of personal hearing that they with/ without their legal representative are ready for the hearing. The noticee(s) should from a group constituting of all WHATSAPP numbers of persons appearing for the hearing and the office number provided to them for hearing.
e. On completion of personal hearing, the personal hearing memo will be sent to primary contact in PDF form from the WHATSAPP number provided, who in turn has to confirm receipt of message. The primary contact person will have to obtain signature of all present for the personal hearing on hard copy of PH memo and send it back on WHATSAPP number provided in PDF format, within 15 minutes of receipt of the memo. In case, all the people who had attended the personal hearing are at different locations, then they should individually sign on hard copy/ print out of the PH memo, send PDF to the primary contact person who will in turn send all such PDF to the WHATSAPP number provided.
This facility will remain in place till any other more secure or easier mode is not established.