Personal Hearings in Virtual Mode in Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax
Judicial Cell (CBIC) Instructions F. No. 390/Misc/3/2019-JC dated 27th April 2020
• Personal hearing, in respect of any proceeding under Customs Act 1962, (and Central Excise Act, 1944 / Chapter V of Finance Act, 1994) given by various authorities, such as Commissioner (Appeals), original adjudicating authorities and Compounding authority, may be conducted through video conferencing facility.
• Broad guidelines to conduct such virtual hearing are being provided so that ongoing Customs work of appeals and adjudications are completed expeditiously for quick delivery of justice – through quasi-judicial proceedings and in compliance of overall directions given by Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution of India in Suo moto Writ (Civil) No. 5/2020).
Guidelines for the conduct of virtual mode of personal hearing through video conferencing facility
• Consent: The party, either as an appellant or a respondent, shall give his consent to avail the personal hearing through video conferencing facility, at the time of filing his appeal or immediately after the issue of this instruction. He should also indicate his email address for correspondence etc
• Sharing of Link: The date and time of hearing along with a link for the video conference shall be informed in advance to the appellant/ respondent or their consultant/ counsel and the concerned commissioner representing revenue through the official email or electronic media of the adjudicating/appellate authority, giving the details of officer-in-charge who would provide assistance to the party, for conducting the virtual hearing. This link should not be shared with any other person without the approval of the adjudicating/appellate authority.
• Proper Authorisation: The advocate/ consultant/ authorized representative, appearing on behalf of the party, in virtual hearing, should file his vakalatnama or authorization letter along with a copy of his photo ID card and contact details to the adjudicating/appellate authority through official e-mail address of the concerned authority after scanning the same. All persons participating in the video conference should be appropriately dressed and maintain the decorum required for such an occasion.
• Virtual hearing through video conference shall be held from the office of adjudicating/appellate authority or any official video conference facility set up in the office of the adjudicating/appellate authority.
• The virtual hearing through video conference will be conducted through available applications like VIDYO, or other secured computer network. The appellant/respondent should download such application in their computer system/laptop/mobile phone beforehand for ready connectivity during virtual hearing, and join the video conference at the time allotted to them.
• In case where the party/ his representative wishes to participate in the virtual hearing proceeding along with their advocate, they should do so under proper intimation to the adjudicating/ appellate authority. They may participate in virtual hearing along with their advocate/ authorized representative or join the proceedings from their own office.
• Record of Personal Hearing(PH): The submissions made by the appellant or their representative through the video conference will be reduced in writing and a statement of the same will be prepared, which shall be known as “record of personal hearing”. A soft copy of such record of personal hearing in PDF format will be sent to the appellant through email ID provided by advocate/ appellant/ respondent, within one day of such hearing.
• If the, appellant/their representative wants to modify the contents of e-mailed record of personal hearing, they can do so and sign the modified record, scan and send back the signed record of personal hearing to the adjudicating/appellate authority.
• If, however, the appellant/their representative do not resend the above e-mailed record of personal hearing within 3 days of receipt of such e-mail, it will be presumed that they agree with the contents of e-mailed record of personal hearing and adjudicating authority/appellate authority will proceed to decide the case accordingly. No modification in e-mailed record of personal hearing will be entertained after 3 days of its receipt by appellant/their representative. The date of receipt of the email by the appellate/adjudicating authority will not be counted for this purpose.
• The record of personal hearing submitted in this manner shall be deemed to be a document for the purpose of Customs Act, 1962 in terms of section 138C of the said Act, read with Section 4 of the information Technology Act, 2000.
• If the party/ advocate prefers to submit any document including additional submissions during the virtual hearing, he may do so by self-attesting such document and a scanned copy of the same may be emailed to the adjudicating/appellate authority immediately after virtual hearing and in no case after 3 days of virtual hearing. The date of the hearing will be excluded for this purpose.
• Any official representing the Department’s side can also participate in the virtual hearing through video conferencing. The Commissionerate concerned shall inform the details in advance regarding such participation.