1st July 2017. This shall be the date going into the history books for on this date, India was introduced to a new indirect tax structure which is complicated and simplified at the same time, time-consuming as well as efficient at the same time; and problematic as well as simple at the same time i.e. GST (Goods & Services Tax). GST has brought in many new provisions instituting several fresh mechanisms and concepts and has brought significant changes to various existing mechanism and procedures. One of such mechanisms is interstate transportation of goods which has witnessed a transformation by way of introduction of an instrument called the E-Way Bill. Such E-way Bills are an integral part of the GST Regime and their enforcement, applicability and compliances are of immense importance to the taxpayers, businessmen as well as the professional community.
E-way Bill is an electronically generated document which is required to be carried for the movement of goods. This document is required to be generated online on the e-way bill portal and is required in both cases of intra as well as inter-state transportation subject to certain parameters like distance and value of goods. This E-way bill mechanism is here to replace the Way-bill mechanism existent in the erstwhile VAT regime wherein Way-bill was a physical document which was required to be carried for transportation of goods. It is of utmost substance to study and interpret the legal provisions related to the E-way Bills for our better understanding of the law as well as unearthing the legislative intent behind such provisions.
Note: (As the CGST Act is pari-materia to all the State and UT GST acts, only the provisions under the CGST Act & Rules are taken into view)
E-way Bill under CGST Act, 2017
Section 68 of the CGST Act 2017 defines the compliances in case of movement of goods under the GST regime
Sec 68(1) The Government may require the person in charge of a conveyance carrying any consignment of goods of value exceeding such amount as may be specified to carry with him such documents and such devices as may be prescribed.
(2) The details of documents required to be carried under sub-section (1) shall be validated in such manner as may be prescribed.
(3) Where any conveyance referred to in sub-section (1) is intercepted by the proper officer at any place, he may require the person in charge of the said conveyance to produce the documents prescribed under the said sub-section and devices for verification, and the said person shall be liable to produce the documents and devices and also allow the inspection of goods.
As per the abovementioned Section 68(1), the Govt. has been granted the power to obligate upon the person carrying/in-charge of the goods being transported to procure and possess certain documents or devices while such transportation. The govt. may also impose certain limitations on the requirement of such E-way Bills (E.g. currently, E-way bills are not required if the value of goods is below Rs. 50,000/-). The Govt. in terms of this Section, has amended the CGST Rules vide Notification No. 27/2017 – Central Tax dated 30.08.2017 and adding the Rule 138 of the CGST Rules to be applicable for the purposes of E-way Bills.
The details contained in the e-way bill are to be validated with the details of the parties i.e. the Consigner and the Consignee as per Section 68(2) and Section 68(3) which grant the power to the proper officer for interception and inspection of goods and the person in charge of the goods shall be required to produce such documents as specified by the Govt. under Sec 68(1). The proper officer with regard to any function under the CGST Act is defined under the CGST Act u/s 2(91) as the Central Tax Commissioner or the Officer assigned with the concerned function.
The procedural and mechanical specifics of E-way Bill are contained in Rule 138 of the CGST Rules 2017 and the interpretation of the said Rule 138 is dealt by the Author in Part I of the present article.