New Delhi, April 8 : The Orissa High Court has directed the Commissioner GST to issue clear instructions to all the officers in the GST Commissionerates in Odisha that no notice demanding payment of service tax/GST will be issued to lawyers rendering legal services.
In an order, an Orrisa High Court bench headed by Chief Justice S.Muralidhar and Justice B.P.Routray said that practising advocates should not have to face harassment on account of the department issuing notices calling upon them to pay service tax/GST when they are exempted from doing so, and in the process also having to prove that they are practising advocates.
“The Commissioner GST is directed to issue clear instructions to all the officers in the GST Commissionerates in Odisha that no notice demanding payment of service tax/GST will be issued to lawyers rendering legal services and falling in the negative list, as far as the GST regime is concerned.Copies of such instructions should be placed before the court on the next date,” the order said.
The matter related to the case of Devi Prasad Tripathy versus The Principal Commissioner, CGST, and Central Excise, Bhubaneswar, will be next heard on April 22.
The court was concerned about the deponent insisting that the petitioner should have submitted “documentary evidence to prove his claim that he is a practising individual lawyer and does not come under the provision of GST or service tax”.
A reference is made to a notification dated June 20, 2012, in terms of which service tax liability of an individual advocate is Nil for legal services rendered to any of the business entities located in the taxable territory.
However, even for this, the department appears to insist that the burden to prove it lies on the petitioner.The counter affidavit acknowledges that a similar notice was issued to the petitioner in 2017 to which he replied, pointing out how he was not liable to pay any service tax.
P.K.Parhi, Assistant Solicitor General of India, admitted that no notice in the frst instance ought to have been issued to the petitioner, who is a practising advocate.
However, when specifically asked whether clear instructions have been issued by the department to all the officers involved in the enforcement of the GST regime that practising advocates should not be issued notices, he sought time for instructions.
During the hearing, certain other advocates present in the court stated that they too have received similar notices.It appears that despite knowing fully well that advocates are not liable to pay service tax or GST, notices continue to be issued to them by the GST Commissionerate.