The Law of Goods And Services Tax
(A Comprehensive Internet Age Commentary By Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan)

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About Book

This book is a detailed section-wise internet age commentary on the CGST Act, IGST Act and GST (Compensation to States) Act. It is the only commentary on the subject written by a Senior Advocate practising at the Supreme Court distilling his vast experience of nearly four decades of litigation practice.

The book is designed to give quick answers to busy GST adjudicators and GST practitioners without wading through judgements and circulars.

The book does not contain copious extracts of judgements and circulars. Instead, it provides a focused and penetrative commentary based on judgements of the courts and rulings of advance ruling authorities. The relevant pages and paragraphs of the relevant judgements and circulars are referred only in the footnotes.

Vexed issues of classification are dealt in a separate chapter with goods and services arranged alphabetically under their common names. The commentary guides the reader on issues not yet decided by the Supreme Court or the High Courts.

The book incorporates the amendments made by the Finance Act, 2023, the CGST (Amendment) Act, 2023 and the IGST (Amendment) Act 2023. Taxation of supplies in casinos, racecourses and online gaming has been addressed in a separate chapter. Relevant decisions reported in GSTR up to 31 July 2023 have been added in the book.

Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan
Barrister & Senior Advocate

Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan is a Barrister and Senior Advocate based in New Delhi, practising at the Supreme Court of India. He also has rights of audience before the Royal Courts of Justice in England and Wales and is a tenant in Chambers at 33 Bedford Row. He carries nearly four decades of experience in taxation and commercial litigation. He has appeared before almost every tier of taxation authorities from the Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India, at various stages of his career. He can be reached at

Foreword By Honorable Justice Sanjiv Khanna Supreme Court

Justice Sanjeev Khanna

The power to tax is a power of the sovereign. Tax cannot be levied or collected except by the authority of law sanctioned by the sovereign. However, in democracies, the sovereign power to sanction laws are derived from the authorization by the citizens.

"If anyone shall claim a power to lay and levy taxes on the people, by his own authority, without the consent of the People, he thereby invades the Fundamental Law of Property, and subverts the end of Govemment. For what property have l in that which another may by right take, when he pleases to himself?" -John Locke

It begs the question - why should citizens provide the consent to impose a tax on themselves? Simply put, a tax is the monetary sum that the governments need in order to sustain the cost of their operations. In this regard, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. had described taxes as the price that that people pay for a civilized society.2 In Cooley's words: "The power is inherent in the people because the sustenance of the government requires contributions from them."

Therefore, taxation in democracies, as a practice and in law, occurs through the sanction from the citizens. However, the agreeability of a citizen or as a group with specific taxation laws may vary with the impact of such laws on their socio-economic existence.

Many a tax provisions are enacted to check tax evasion and to create legitimate compliance mechanisms. However, a plaguing issue that the citizens may face with taxation laws is the ease of tax compliances.

In India, prior to introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the indirect tax regime was fragmented and dualistic. Multiple taxes were levied by the central and state governments on the economic activities which had a cascading effect on the taxpayers. This caused a lack of clarity, uncertainty and resultant litigation. Inter alia, to remedy this, GST was introduced as a single tax on the supply of goods or services or both, at each stage of the supply chain. It aims to integrate the Indian market into a single common market.

This new regime of taxation necessitates the emergence of new legal literature and active engagement with such laws. The task at hand is arduous. The intricate world of taxation, a new domain often viewed with trepidation and uncertainty, requires a nuanced understanding. It involves explaining complex concepts in simple and readable form while traversing through voluminous legal documents. Complex academic text may not only fail to achieve such objective, but cause further damage, by complicating the already complex content of taxation laws. Particularly, we need to move away from the practice of producing voluminous commentaries which are essentially compendiums of statutes and judgemernts.

Separately, in today's date, massive volume of information is in circulation on the internet on any given topic. While this has increased the ease of access of information, the task of locating reliable and authentic writing has been rendered difficult. Thus, while retaining simplicity of the text is important, such new legal literature is also required to be reliable.

The need of the hour is simple writing that can be easily relied upon by legal practitioners, assesses and students of law, alike. Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan's, "The Law of Goods and Services Act", is an example of such writing. Through this work, the author attempts to retain an original form of writing instead of replicating excerpts of the law in the form of compendiums of judgments. In the author's words, he has attempted to provide an "internet-age commentary'.

It is commendable that the author has managed to capture such voluminous and complex tenets of GST laws in his original and simple style of writing. I am hopeful that the book wil contribute significantly to the literature on taxation laws and enrich the knowledge of the readers on the subject. I hope that the author's work inspires the present generation of jurists and students, igniting a deep interest in taxation law, particularly, and the tenets of justice, generally.

New Delhi:
July 20, 2023Sanjiv Khanna

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Four decades ago, when the late Nani Palkhivala wrote another edition of his famous commentary on the Income Tax Act, legal resources were only in print and available to a limited few.

The senior lawyer in Chambers read the books and the law journals first. These would later trickle down to the juniors. Commentaries were the primary vehicles to disseminate information about judgments. Commentators gave the factual background of each precedent followed by verbatim reproduction of the relevant paragraphs from the judgment.

In this internet age, tax practitioners are drowning in information overload. Daily, they are faced with a barrage of online analysis of judgements, articles, circulars and clarifications. It is difficult to locate the relevant judgment among hundreds, let alone locate the ratio decidendi from a judgment typically running to a large number of paragraphs, replete with extracts from other judgments.

These difficulties are heightened under the Goods and Services Tax laws which deal with new concepts. Precedents under sales tax law and services tax law cannot be followed automatically

A different type of original writing is now required to guide the reader through the jungle of information. Commentaries must quickly give answers to problems faced by the practitioners. They must concisely identify the ratio decidendi, and the logic in the judicial approach, read together seemingly diverging judgements, point out errors and reconcile conflicting statutory provisions. Copious extracts from judgements are not needed.

I have tried to make this book an Internet-age commentary by avoiding extracts from judgements, circulars and notifications to the greatest extent possible. I have addressed the essence of the statutes, judgements, Parliamentary debates and minutes of GST Council meetings in my own words, as part of my commentary.

I have referred to the relevant judgments, orders, circulars and notifications only in the footnotes. I have also given in the footnote, the exact page and paragraph of the judgment or circular relevant to the commentary. I have pointed out errors in judgements, orders and circulars which, in my opinion, do not correctly reflect the law. I have highlighted sections which, according to me, are unconstitutional. I have given my interpretation on issues which have not yet been decided by the courts.

John Ruskin, a Victorian writer, said “The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” This has been true for me in writing this book. Although this is my third book, writing this book changed me on many fronts. Writing this book was about learning discipline, learning to wake up at 3:50 AM every day to write the manuscript before attending to my court work and learning to revise and re-write repeatedly until the desired level of precision and clarity of analysis was achieved.

The commentary incorporates the amendments made by the Finance Act, 2023, the CGST (Amendment) Act, 2023 and the IGST (Amendment) Act 2023. Taxation of supplies in casinos, racecourses and online gaming has been addressed in a separate chapter. Relevant decisions reported in GSTR up to 31 July 2023 have been added in the commentary.

This commentary is among a few gender sensitive legal books. I have avoided using gender sensitive pronouns, he or she, to the greatest extent possible.

I wish to thank OakBridge Publishing, its founders Shreesh Chandra and Vikash Dhyani, its commissioning editor Priyanka Srivastava and her successor Bhupendra Yadav for their help and support in publishing this book. I thank my son Anirudh Ramakrishnan, Advocate, India and Attorney, Californian Bar for his helpful suggestions and for preparing the index. Most importantly, my thanks go to my mother Smt. Indira and to my wife Meera for their encouragement and for ensuring I stay focused.

Ramakrishnan Viraraghavan
Independence Day, 2023, New Delhi.

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