In order to tackle hearing during lockdown , Virtual hearing of all demand notices relating to indirect taxes including goods and services tax (GST) can be done now through an “WhatsApp Application”. A standard procedure for conducting the hearings has been released.
This decision has been taken due to situation arising from Covid 19 and the mandatory guidelines from government on maintaining social distancing norms. WhatsApp video conferencing has been considered suitable mode for video conferencing because it also has “end to end encryption” and has a huge reach amongst common people.
The facility will remain in place till any other more secure or easier mode is established, the authority said in the letter issued for general information. Whatsapp has more than 400 million users in India which is far more than any other messaging app in the country.
The directions follow instructions from Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) issued in April, allowing field offices to conduct hearings in customs, excise and service tax appeal cases via video conference with the consent of the appellant or respondent.
Issuing standard measures, the state GST authority has said that all the parties must agree for virtual hearing via Whatsapp Video Conferencing and provide Whatsapp number for the same. 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 to send 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.