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The New Income-tax Code – Panacea for old evils?

We are still waiting with bated breath for the new Income-tax Code which was supposed to be released by December 2007. The Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that the Code is an exercise of the future and is not aimed at amending the existing Income Tax Act 1961. “This report is about a brand new Income Tax Act, which if all goes well, will come into force from Apr 1, 2008, that is assessments made for 2009-10,” he said. He added that the new Act would hopefully come into force from April 2008 subject to Parliament approving it “well in time”.

This time-table may have to be delayed because it was announced today that a “white paper” would first be released and the Code would be introduced in Parliament only after all the loose ends were ironed out.

Meanwhile, the AIFTP has released its’ six-point wish list for the new Income-tax Code which balances healthy pragmatism with a dash of idealism.

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The bane of the Supreme Court’s holidays.

The oft-criticized holiday calendar of the Supreme Court will now have to reckon with the scrutiny of the the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry of Law and Justice on “Judicial Reforms”.

What has met with the ire of legal reformists are the startling figures of mounting arrears coupled with a spree of unending holidays for the apex court.

At the beginning of 2006 there were nearly 29,000 cases vying for the attention of the apex court. By October 2007, this number has spiralled to 44,819. And many of these are cases which have taken decades to reach the apex court.

In this backdrop, the Court’s calender for 2008 reveals that out of 366 days, there are only 192 working days. The rest of the 174 days (nearly 6 months) are made up of holidays. The Court enjoys 7 weeks of ‘Summer vacation’, two weeks for Christmas & new year, a week for Diwali and various assorted holidays for Id, Moharrum, Raksha Bandhan, Maha Shivratri etc.  This is marginally better than 2007 when the number of non-working days (189) outnumbered the number of working days (176).

Of course, in addition to these holidays and vacations, individual judges are entitled to their own quota of leaves, according to the provisions of Supreme Court Judges’ salary and other Condition of Service Act, 1958.

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