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Supreme Court stays Delhi High Court’s order on Bharti Airtel claiming Rs 923 crore GST refund

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Delhi High Court order, allowing Bharti Airtel Ltd to claim Rs 923 crore in tax refunds by rectifying its goods and services tax (GST) returns for July to September 2017. The refund was denied earlier by the revenue authorities.

A bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, B. R. Gavai and Krishna Murari said: “The operation of the impugned judgment shall remain stayed.”

The top court also sought response from the telecom firm and posted the matter for final disposal in the first week of March 2021.

“Issue notice. Dasti, in addition, is permitted. Rahul Jain, Advocate waives notice for respondent. List the matter in the first week of March, 2021 for final disposal,” said the top court in its order, which came on the appeal filed by the Centre challenging the Delhi High Court order.

The government had contended that Bharti Airtel had under-reported input tax credit from July to September 2017. The telco contested this argument saying that it had paid excess tax of Rs 923 crore on inputs based on estimates since the GSTR-2A form was not operational during the error period.

The High Court noted the telecom company would have known the correct input tax credit (ITC) amount available to it in the relevant period, if the statutorily prescribed returns GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 had been operationalised by the government, and it could have discharged its liability through ITC.

In May, a two-judge bench of the High Court had allowed the telecom major to seek GST refunds and also directed the government to verify the excess GST claim within two weeks of the order and refund the amount to Bharti Airtel.

“As a consequence, the deficiency in reporting the eligible ITC in the months of July-September 2017 in the form GSTR-3B has resulted in excess payment of cash by Bharti,” it had said. Free Press Journal

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