New Delhi: The government on Tuesday appointed senior bureaucrat B N Sharma as the first chairman of the anti-profiteering body that will ensure consumers get benefit of reduced prices under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The National Anti-Profiteering Authority "has been set up for a two-year period, which would begin from the date Sharma assumes charge as Chairman", a finance ministry statement said.

It will also have four joint secretary-level or above officers, who have been appointed as Technical Members in the Authority. These officials are J C Chauhan, Chairman Tax Tribunal, Himachal Pradesh; Bijay Kumar, Principal Commissioner GST, Kolkata; C L Mahar, Principal Commissioner GST, Meerut; and R Bhagyadevi, ADG, Systems, Chennai.

The authority has been constituted within a fortnight of the Union Cabinet approving the setting up of a body to protect consumer interest, by ensuring that the benefits of input credit and the reduction in GST rates on specified goods or services are passed on to consumers.

"As its first Chairman, B N Sharma is expected to give a direction to the Authority in boosting the confidence of consumers that GST is a 'Good and Simple Tax' in the overall national interest," the statement said.

The Authority is mandated to ensure the benefits of input credit and the reduction in GST rates on specified goods or services are passed on to the consumers by way of a commensurate reduction in prices, the ministry said.

Sharma, an IAS officer of 1985 batch of Rajasthan cadre, is currently posted as Additional Secretary in the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. He has been closely associated with the formulation of GST and its implementation.

Sharma has been appointed as the Chairman of the apex authority in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India, the ministry said.

With the chairman and technical members now having been appointed, the Authority becomes functional, reassuring consumers of the governments' commitment that GST would result in lower prices of goods and services, it added.

The appointments were made on the recommendation of a high-level Selection Committee headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha.

The revenue secretary, the CBEC chairperson and chief secretaries of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were the other members of the Selection Committee.

Since the rollout of GST on July 1, the GST Council, comprising Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his state counterparts, has rationalised tax rates on over 300 goods and services.

"Consumers who are aggrieved that there has been no commensurate reduction in prices may apply for relief to the Screening Committee in the state. After forming a prima facie view on the substance of the application, the matter would be referred to a Standing Committee at the Centre," the ministry said.

As per the structure of the anti-profiteering mechanism in the GST regime, complaints of local nature will be first sent to the state-level 'screening committee' while those of national level will be marked for the 'Standing Committee'.

If the complaints have merit, the respective committees would refer the cases for further investigation to the Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS). The DG Safeguards would generally take about three months to complete the investigation and send the report to the anti-profiteering Authority.

If the Authority finds that a company has not passed on GST benefits, it will either direct the entity to pass on the benefits to consumers or if the beneficiary cannot be identified will ask the company to transfer the amount to the 'consumer welfare fund' within a specified timeline.

The authority will have the power to cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on to consumers the benefit of lower taxes under the GST regime, but it would probably be the last step against any violator.

According to the anti—profiteering rules, the authority will suggest return of the undue profit earned from not passing on the reduction in tax to consumers along with an 18 per cent interest as also impose penalty. 

PTI