Appeals to CESTAT : Why soft-copies in PenDrives, when Delhi HC accepts CD/DVDs ?

[A] Introduction

A. Appeals under Customs Act, 1962 and Central Excise/Service Tax Laws to be filed before CESTAT are regulated by CESTAT (Procedure) Rules, 1982. This write-up analyses recent procedural amendments in said rules.

[B] CESTAT (Procedure) Rules, 1982 — Amendment

The amendment rules [CESTAT Notification No. 1/2020, dated 11-5-2020] provide as under :

In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 129C of the Customs Act, 1962 (52 of 1962) read with Section 35D of the Central Excise Act, 1944 (1 of 1944), Section 86 of the Finance Act, 1994 and Section 9C of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, the President, Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal amends the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1982 as follows with immediate effect.

1. Sub-Rule (1) of Rule 8 is substituted as follows :

“(1) Every Memorandum of Appeal or Cross Objection shall set forth concisely and under distinct heads, the Statement of Facts and Grounds of Appeal or Grounds of Cross Objection, as the case may be, consecutively numbered and typed in double space of the paper. They shall also contain a valid mobile number and e-mail address of both the Appellant(s) and the Respondent (s).”

2. New Sub-Rule 4 is added to Rule 8 as follows :

“(4) The verification of every Memorandum of Appeal or Cross Objection or Miscellaneous Application filed on or after the date of publication of this Notification shall state that the soft copy of the Appeal Memorandum or the Cross Objection or the Miscellaneous Application and the Documents filed therewith are the true copies of the original.”

3. New Sub-Rule 5 is added to Rule 9 as follows :

“(5) Every Memorandum of Appeal or Cross Objection and the documents filed along with such Appeal or Cross Objection shall be accompanied by its soft copy stored in two pen drives.

4. New Sub-Rule (8) is added to Rule 16 as follows :

“(8) The soft copies of the Paper Book shall also be stored in two pen drives and filed along with such Paper Book.”

5. New Sub-Rule (3) is added Io Rule 19 as follows :

“(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in Sub-Rule (1) of this Rule, the President may, by a separate Notification, allow the hearing of Appeal or Cross Objection through appropriate video conferencing platform in the manner as may be notified”.

6. Sub-Rule (5) of Rule 28A is substituted as follows :

“(5) Every application for stay shall be accompanied by three copies of the relevant orders of the authorities of the department concerned, including the appellate orders, if any, against which the appeal is filed to the Tribunal by the Appellant and other documents, if any. The soft copies of the stay application, the relevant orders and the documents, shall also be stored in two pen drives and filed along with such application.

[C] Requirement to file two pendrives by each party

The rules mandate storage of soft-copies on two pendrives and filing of two pendrives with each appeal/application/memo of cross-objections, etc. Thus, each appeal would normally see a minimum of FOUR pen drives : two by department and two by assessees.

[D] Requirement is expensive — Emails or CD/DVDs or e-filing should suffice

D. This requirement seems to be expensive requirement given the fact that even Delhi High Court rules require filing of soft-copy in CD/DVDs, which are not so costly. Moreover, a simple email would suffice the purpose.

Further, in this era of digitisation, the better mechanism could be to allow e-filing with facility to upload requisite documents on server. Requirement to file pen drives would pile up innumerable pen drives with CESTAT creating unnecessary burden on litigants to spend and unnecessary burden on CESTAT to manage them.