The Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (‘CBIC’), vide Instruction dated 21st August 2020, has made it mandatory for the adjudicating, appellate and compounding authorities to conduct personal hearing through video conferencing facility. This mandate has been made applicable to any proceedings under the Customs Act 1962, Central Excise Act 1944, Chapter V of Finance Act 1994 (Service Tax), CGST Act 2017 and IGST Act 2017.

However, in case the assessee or his authorized representative is not able to attend the virtual hearing due to rare or accentuating circumstance, the adjudicating or appellate authority shall approve the request for a physical hearing and record the reasons for the same in writing.

Further, the CBIC has issued the following guidelines for conducting personal hearing through video conferencing facility:

(a) Intimation of virtual hearing: It is mandatory for the authorities to indicate that the personal hearing would take place through video conferencing facility and provide an email address for correspondence in this regard.

(b) Intimate date and time of hearing: The concerned parties shall be informed about the date and time of hearing along with the link for video conference and details of the officer-in-charge who will provide assistance to the parties for conducting the virtual hearing.

(c) Filing of Vakalatnama: The Authorized representative of the assessee shall send the scanned copy of his/ her vakalatnama or authorization letter along with a copy of photo ID card and contact details to the concerned authority through email.

(d) Maintain the decorum: The parties should be appropriately dressed and maintain the decorum.

(e) The virtual hearing shall be conducted from the office of Adjudicating/ Appellate Authority

(f) Download application for Virtual Hearing: The virtual hearing shall be conducted through video conference application and parties should download such application in their mobile/ laptop/ computer system before the scheduled time of the virtual hearing.

(g) Participation of Advocate: The assessee shall intimate to the proper authority about the participation of advocate in the virtual hearing.

(h) Record of Personal Hearing: The submissions made by the Assessee or the Authorized Representative shall be recorded in writing and such record shall be sent to the assessee in pdf format through email within one day of the hearing.

(i) Modification in Record of Personal Hearing: The Assessee or its representative can modify the record of personal hearing within 3 days after the receipt of such record. The date of receipt of record shall not be counted for this purpose. If no modification is intimated within such time, the record of personal hearing sent by the authority shall be deemed to be final.

(j) Record of Personal Hearing is a document: The record of Personal Hearing shall be deemed to be a document for the purpose of the relevant statute read with Section 4 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

(k) Submission of Additional Document: The Assessee can submit any document or additional submissions through email within 3 days after the virtual hearing. Such document shall be self-attested.

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October 2021