A Full Court Farewell Function was held on 14.10.2011 to honour the elevation of Shri. R. V. Easwar, the then President of the Tribunal, as Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court. This is the first time in the history of the Tribunal that such a farewell tribute was given to any Member on his elevation as Judge.
Speech of Shri. G. E. Veerabhadrappa, President
Good Morning everybody, Mr. Easwar, President of the ITAT, Mr. D.Manmohan, Vice President, Mumbai Zone and my other colleagues, distinguished Members of the Bar, Chartered Accountants and Ex-Members and ladies and gentlemen
It is indeed a great pleasure to be part of this function wherein we are giving Full Court Reference and farewell to Shri R.V. Easwar, President of the Tribunal. It is glad that Shri R.V. Easwar is elevated as the Judge of the Delhi High Court and it is ours as if we feel all of us are invited. It is a great thing that has happened in the recent past. Mr. Easwar I am sure will make a mark and we are sure you did a lot to the institution and to the tax literature. As you all know Mr. Easwar is both Chartered Accountant and also an Advocate. He came from a very rural background the place Tuticorn in Tamilnadu.
Sir, your experience as a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer and Member of ITAT, will help the judiciary. By seeing your performance in High Court, I am sure the Government will definitely consider that the Members of the ITAT are also one of the potential source for the elevation to High Court. Tax Bar always desired that many deserving members should be elevated to the High Court
He born in the year 1952. He joined the Tribunal in the year 1991 as the Judicial Member and was posted to Kolkata. Afterwards, he was posted at Mumbai. He was posted at Delhi and he was promoted as Vice President and posted at Delhi Benches. He served there. In fact, I had a privilege of succeeding him at Delhi. We are all promoted by the same batch. He worked as Vice President at Bangalore, Ahmedabad and posted as Sr. Vice President at Mumbai and he was confirmed as officiating President of the ITAT at Mumbai from June, 2010. Prior to joining the Bench he practiced as Advocate in Chennai for about 16-17 years right from 1975 to 1991 in the chamber of late Shri K.Srinivasan who used to call in those days as the doyen in the tax field and he is one of the rare distinguished person we had in the Bar and the Mr. Easwar had the great privilege to come from that Office and he stood by the prestige of that Office and rendered equally land marking Judgments on the Benches wherever he sat. As you are aware Mr. Easwar is a quite very simple man. Does not talk too much than to do his best at work. It is sad day for the Tribunal because we lost such a good man. I had the privilege of sharing so many administrative issues with him. In fact, he received the merit of every issue and I hope he would retain the prestige of this Institution wherever he goes. It is very unfortunate that this institution will have to experience his absence but anyhow his orders will be followed and it is a great thing that we see him going to the top position and I am sure in the years to come he will make great impression wherever he goes. So far as the Tribunal is concerned, as all of you know it is a great law. It will take some time for us to fill the vacuum. I am sure he will guide us. With these few words, I request Mr. K.Shivaram, President of the ITAT Bar Association to start the proceedings.
Speech of Dr. K. Shivaram, President, ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai
My nearly twenty-year stint in the Tribunal taught me quite a few lessons, not the least of them was patience. I did take time to understand the case but that was because I genuinely believed that everything that has to be said about the case must be said and must be heard. May be I am even guilty of delaying some of my orders, but I assure you that in all such cases the only reason was that I struggled to come to grips with the complexity of the case.l
Hon’ble President Shri R. V. Easwar, Hon’ble Incoming President Shri G. E. Veerabhadrappa, Hon’ble Vice President Shri D. Manmohan, Hon’ble Members, Past Presidents, Shri S. E. Dastur, Shri Dinesh Vyas, Past President of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Shri Arvind H. Dalai, Commissioner of Income Tax, Shri Pawan Kumar Ved, Members of the Bar, Departmental Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the members of the ITAT Bar Association and on myself, I bid you sir, a very hearty and warm send off on the occasion of your relinquishing the charge as a President of the ITAT and on elevation as the Judge of High Court of Delhi.
Sir, we as members of Bar have a mixed feelings, of joy and sorrow:-
Sorrow in the sense that we are losing one of the finest member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and feeling of Joy is that you are going to be Judge of High Court, an honour which any member of a Judiciary can aspire for.
Sir, this is the first time in the History of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, that a Full Court farewell is being given to a member on elevation as a Judge of High Court. I asked Shri S. E. Dastur and Shri Y. P. Trivedi our Past Presidents who have practiced before the ITAT for more than 50 Years; “Is there any precedent"?, they said there is no such Precedent. Then I asked them shall we create new precedent, they said yes, the Honourable President deserves therefore we should organise it. Thereafter, I contacted each member of the Managing Committee and Immediate Past President Shri Dinesh Vyas and it was under one voice everybody agreed that we must have a Full Court farewell function, thereafter, we met the learned Vice President Hon’ble D. Manmohan, he expressed the view that we must have a Full Court farewell. Sir, yesterday when I told Mr. M. L. Patodi, National President of All India Federation of Tax Practitioners (AIFTP) who is from Rajasthan, that tomorrow we will be having a Full Court farewell he said that he desired to attend, this shows the respect and the love which the bar and the bench has towards the learned Hon’ble President.
Sir, your elevation has created a new precedent that the Member of the Tribunal can be elevated to any High Court and not necessarily from the state from which you enrol as an Advocate. Now, the ITAT as an institution through Ministry of Law, can make request to respective Chief Justices of various High Courts that, we are having many competent members who deserves to be elevated as Judges of High Courts, Chief Justices may consider them on merit.
I feel this is your indirect contribution to the great institution to which you belong.
Sir, when your honour were transferred here from Calcutta, then President of ITAT, Shri T. V. Rajagopala Rao told me, I have brought here a very good member who passes very good orders and that was proved correct. We have found, more than 200 orders of your honour which are reported in various Journals. In earlier days, only few judgements were reported which are fit for publication.
Sir, Mr. V. S. Jaya Kumar, my friend from Chennai once told me, that as a Lawyer, you used to read and discuss all reported judgments in ITR, that is why whenever we quote some judgment your honour used to ask the question is it the judgment of so and so and read this paragraph.
Sir, you belong to a Chamber of Late Shri K. Srinivasan, Senior Advocate, Hon’bie Shri D. S. Meenakshisundaram, Former Member and Vice President is also from the same Chamber and as a junior member of Bar we ail remember him even now. By your elevation you have brought a great honour to your worthy senior and the Chamber.
Sir, it is always pleasure to argue before your honour, on principle of law, in one of the Judgment Pranav Construction Co. vs. ACIT (1998) 61 TTJ 145 (Mum.), in the year 1997 your honour has held that "Payment made by a builder for the purpose of providing security to partners or for getting the tapories vacated was allowable. Though there being no direct evidence but there being circumstantial evidence supporting such payments". Some of the paper wrote editorial on this judgement and immediately in the next Finance Bill law was amended retrospectively from 1961.
Sir, in your Presidentship, we find the all orders of ITAT are published in ITAT’s website (www.itat.nic.in) as soon as the orders are pronounced and thus you brought in transparency in the functioning of the Tribunal.
Sir, your experience as a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer and Member of ITAT, will help the judiciary. By seeing your performance in High Court, I am sure the Government will definitely consider that the Members of the ITAT are also one of the potential source for the elevation to High Court. Tax Bar always desired that many deserving members should be elevated to the High Court.
On behalf of the Tax Bar, I wish your honour every success in your new assignments and still higher and further honours and distinctions in future. I wish your honour a very long and happy life. I also wish all the members of the ITAT, who are part of your family Happy Dipawali and very very prosperous New Year.
I pray, may goddess Saraswati bless you sir in passing many landmark judgements as a Judge of Delhi High Court.
Sir, from Monday onwards, we will have the pleasure of addressing you sir as "His lordship".
Sir, whenever we will hold any function of ITAT, we will miss you sir, and my friends will miss the South Indian coffee.
Speech By Shri Arvind Dalal
The Hon. President and members of the ITAT at Mumbai, Mr. Shivaram, President of Bar Association, Shri S. E. Dastur, Shri Dinesh Vyas, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of Chartered Accountants members of the Institute practicing at ITAT Bar, I have the honour and privilege to associate myself with this full court farewell to the President, Shri. R.V. Easwar on his elevation as judge of the Delhi High Court.
Shri. Easwar has been Senior Vice President of the Tribunal at Mumbai from November, 2009 to June 2010. He has been officiating President of the ITAT at Mumbai since then and the first reaction is that we shall allmiss him in the tribunal. Earlier, he has been vice-President of the Tribunal at Delhi, .Bangalore and Ahemadabad since 2005.
I had occasions to appear before him to present my clients cases in the course of appeals and every time the feeling of satisfaction was there as he heard the matter very patiently giving full scope for arguing the matter at length. Whether we won or lost the appeal was a different question altogether, but the important thing was the opportunity to argue the matter to the fullest extent without any hindrance. This was not only my experience but the view of all the Chartered Accountants or Advocates who had occasion to appear before him. This is the best compliment that one can pay to him for doing justice to all the parties. The depth of his knowledge and expertise was reflected in orders passed by him bringing out the case of both the parties involved in the appeal.
Apart from the above, he was always very informal and friendly in his relation with the members and I remember one incident very distinctly in the course of one of the residential course organized by the Chamber of tax consultants when he was chairing a Technical session on taxation in the course organized at Shirdi, Some of us had gone to the temple of Shri. Sai Baba for darshan and blessings when we were pleasantly surprised that he was praying to the Lord silently sitting in a corner of the temple. This show the deeply religious attitude in life which also influenced his disposition even in the course of his duties as member of the Tribunal. He is a picture of humility personified in spite of holding the highest position in the Tribunal and his unassuming nature and modesty endeared him to all the members of the bar.
In conclusion, I must state that his elevation in the Bench of the High Court is very well deserved in view of his experience, knowledge and expertise in dealing with complicated matters involving Tax Laws both national and International. I am sure that he will discharge his duties as the Hon’ble judge of the Delhi High Court creditably and rise further in a glorious career as member of the judiciary and I wish him all the success in his career in the days to come.
Shri S. E. Dastur, Past President of the ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai
Mr. Chairman and Mr. President, (It is seldom that one has the opportunity to start a speech with this form of salutation!)
We are familiar with dividend warrants, share warrants and those steeped in income-tax matters are confronted with issues regarding search warrants but in the last two weeks in the corridors of the Tribunal the Bar was anxiously awaiting an appointment warrant and speculating as to when it would come through. The tension was relieved yesterday when we all greeted the news that the 25th President of the Tribunal has become the 32nd (or is it the 33rd ?) member of the Tribunal to become a High Court Judge.
It is a tribute to you, Mr. President, that at less than 20 hours notice we have so many people present today on this joyous occasion. I say joyous though there is no joy without a tinge of sorrow. We will after all miss a great member of the Tribunal before whom the Bar seldom wanted to apply for an adjournment. I was informed by those in the know of these things that Madam President of India normally signs such warrants only on Thursdays. If the President had chosen Friday as being auspicious day for performing this task, then, we may not have had the opportunity of according a full court reference as the President would have assumed his high office in Delhi before any such function could have been organized.
When appointed as a member in November 1991 Mr. Easwar became the 242nd Member of the Income-tax Tribunal. On the coming 11th November (11-11-11) he would have completed 20 years of service in the Tribunal. He was the second longest serving Judicial Member – Mr. S. Grover having served for 6 months more, but, then, if the President had served his full term in the Tribunal his would have been the longest tenure of service as a judicial member.
But the length of service is the least of Mr. Easwar’s distinctions. The quality and depth of his judgments, the construction thereof, the smooth way in which one sentence merged into another and one thought led to the other are worth emulating. I have the greatest admiration for the notes he must have taken as arguments progressed so as to produce such "complete" judgments. Even though there may be a time lag between hearings and between the last hearing and the order, one never felt that an important point had been missed. The inability to make such precise notes is one of my several deficiencies. In the course of arguments by the opposing lawyer I make notes in the belief that the few words I jot down will enable me to recall the argument. Frankly, very often when my turn comes for a rejoinder or reply I could not quite recollect what I intended to convey by the noting made by me. That is why my response was perhaps always so diffused!
There are several landmark judgments rendered by Mr. Easwar to some of which reference has been made today. Quite some years ago Mr. Easwar pronounced one of the leading judgments concerning interpretation of Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements. He was, if my memory serves me right, dealing with the Indo-UK DTAA. This was much before the days of the specialized "hell sorry, “L” Bench!
In one case the Department had enthusiastically attached the accounts and recovered the amount to the credit thereof of a tax payer even when the hearing of the stay application filed by him before the Tribunal was fixed for hearing just two days away. Mr. Easwar ordered the Department not only to defreeze the account but also to return the money so collected. He did not just stop at admonishing the Department but carried the matter to its logical conclusion: he ordered refund of the money to the assessee. Mr. President, we are sure your judgments in the High Court will show the same quality of courage, precision and learning as your orders I have.
I believe that Mr. Easwar enjoys the distinction of having been a member of the largest number of Special Benches constituted in the Tribunal. One possible reason is that they wanted a person like him to shoulder the responsibility of writing the order! On his appointment as officiating President, Mr. Easwar shifted the headquarters of the President from Delhi back to Bombay emulating what Mr. Rajagopala Rao had done before him. Mr. Easwar was a great admirer of that independent and most judicial judge. It is a matter of regret that Mr. Easwar remained an officiating President for almost 1 l/2 years. We are told that this is because it is intended to appoint a former High Court/Supreme Court judge to be President at some point of time in the future. My own view is that this is most impractical. Two of the very important tasks a President has to handle are the constitution of Benches and where to post a member. Unless he has a grounding in the institution he will not be able to discharge these 2 very important functions.
Mr. Easwar was the 5th member of the Tribunal to be elevated as judge of the Delhi High Court – one of whom also graced the Bench of the Supreme Court. The Madras High Court has also elevated 5 members of the Tribunal but the Allahabad High Court holds the record in this behalf – 6 members have been elevated. This is in keeping with the tradition of that state to give to our country the largest number of Prime Ministers! It is a matter of regret to me that the Bombay High Court has elevated only 2 members of the Tribunal to the Bench – the first one being only 25 years ago. The late Justice Muhammad Munir who was the first member of the Tribunal when it was constituted in 1941 was also the first member to be elevated to a High Court (the Lahore High Court). He ultimately became Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court. In the first 20 years of the existence of the Tribunal only 2 members were elevated to the High Court, in the next 50 years 30 more. I do hope this geometric progression increases and more members are appointed to the High Courts and specially in the Bombay High Court which may help speedy disposals of the tax matters there.
Let me conclude on a cheerful note. At the outset I referred to the warrants which we all receive, the warrants on which we have to opine and the warrant we were awaiting anxiously. We look forward to the tea which is promised today and particularly to the dinner which the Bar has organized on the 22nd. Mr. President of the Bar Association, we do hope it will not only be tea at that function! An alcoholic like myself would like to greet the workaholic President with a liquid stronger than the cup which is reputed to cheer. Three cheers to you, Sir, and good luck, good health and God bless you!
Speech of Shri Dinesh Vyas. Senior Advocate, past President of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Bar Association. Mumbai
This Full Court Farewell in honour of Shri R.V. Easwar, the President of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is upon his elevation as a Judge of the Delhi High Court. In a long tenure of 20 years with postings at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, Shri Easwar has endeared himself to the entire Tax Bar in India. He was an ideal Judge, gave opportunity of being heard to all parties, did his legal research; wrote his judgments with full judicial material and support and careful statutory interpretation; remained committed to the cause of justice and discharged his duties as a Judge without fear or favour.
Shri Easwar saw the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and the Income-tax Act on a very wide and comprehensive compass. He was all the time conscious of India’s constitutional framework and its democratic federal structure with three constitutional organs independent of each other yjz^ Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. He recognized the principle of separation of power and independence of each of the organs as a foundation of the democratic structure. As a Judge functioning in the field of taxation, he saw that the role of the above three organs got mixed-up too frequently. Consequently, as a part of the judiciary, he fearlessly asserted and fought for the independence of the Tribunal within the judicial system and also for the ultimate supremacy of law.
Shri Easwar’s contribution in strengthening the judiciary need to be understood and appreciated by some legendary examples. In the case of VSNL (81 ITD 456), the issue examined was regarding the deductibility of levy imposed by Department of Telecommunication (DOT). The tax authorities were influenced by specific opinions expressed by the CBDT and the Finance Minister. Shri Easwar consistently held the view that Executive has no role to play with regard to interpretation of law and consequently in his judgment he observed at page 471 as follows:-
"The DOT levy, irrespective of the opinions expressed by the CBDT and in the letter of the then Hon’ble Finance Minister, with due respect to those opinions, was therefore allowable."
The case of Tata Chemicals Limited (67 ITD 56) demonstrates that Shri Easwar strictly adhered to law, uninfluenced by the external Executive influences. In this case, the Assessing Officer who made the Assessment Order demanded as of right the opportunity to argue the case of the Department before the Tribunal and justify his Assessment Order. For this purpose, he armed himself with letters of authority granted by the Assessing Officer, the Departmental Representative, the Commissioner of Income-tax and the Revenue Secretary. Unaffected by this onslaught, Shri Easwar insisted that only a person who is legally and validly authorized to appear before the Tribunal under the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Rules can appear for the Department and since there was no legal and valid authorization in favour of the then Assessing Officer, he could not be given audience by the Tribunal.
A brave act of Shri Easwar laid the foundation for the milestone decision in the case of ITAT vs. V.K. Agarwal (235 ITR 175) in which the Tribunal has been now established as a Court for several purposes and as an integral part of the Indian judiciary. In this case, Shri Easwar prepared and signed an Order with which the Accountant Member did not agree. Then, both the Members discussed the issue again and Shri Easwar was inclined to agree with the contrary Order proposed by the Accountant Member. The latter Order was signed by both the Members. The Law Secretary to the Government of India came in possession of both the above Orders and he then issued a Show-Cause-Notice to the President for explaining the above so-called contrary Orders. Shri Easwar gave his explanation to the President to the effect that there is only one Order signed by both the Members and that the other Order prepared by him earlier remained at draft level always. He perceived the action of the Law Secretary as an interference in the independent functioning of the Tribunal. It is on the basis of such perception that the President of the Tribunal approached the Supreme Court which ultimately held the Law Secretary guilty of criminal contempt. Thus, it was Shri Easwar’s fearless and independent assertion for independence of the Tribunal that established the supremacy of the Tribunal in its judicial matters over the administrative powers of the Law Secretary.
In yet another case, Mr. Easwar did not entertain an application of the Additional Solicitor General of India for an adjournment of the case on the ground that he had tried to settle the matter between a Tax Payer PSU and the Income-tax Department. Shri Easwar declined the request on the ground that the Cabinet Secretary has no role to play in administration of justice and therefore, his intervention is futile.
In the life of Shri R.V. Easwar, the day for his elevation to the High Court should have come more than a decade ago, but it is only because of absence of a proper system with regard to elevation of Judicial Members that the call to him came so late. It is noticed all over India that many Courts do not have proper tax Benches. In some cases, the Bench has only one Judge who totally controls the proceedings and the voice of the other Judge is not even heard at all on account of his inability to participate in the proceedings. The matter is required to be seen as a legal issue because under section 260B an Appeal in the High Court is required to be "heard" by a Bench of not less than two Judges and in accordance with their "opinion". In many cases, it is observed that in view of the different legal backgrounds, a Judge is hardly in a position to hold an "opinion" and the "hearing" for him is without any application of his mind. Shri Easwar’s case demonstrates the urgent need to set the system right and in place and also to ensure that deserving Judicial Members of the Tribunal are elevated to the High Courts. It is hoped that now that Shri Easwar has with his weight of presidency of the Tribunal moved to the higher rung of Indian judiciary, he is able to give a decisive push to give shape to such system in the cause of justice.
It is with a very heavy heart that we bid Shri Easwar a farewell; his departure is a big loss to the Tribunal and hence we will miss him but at the same time it is with a very warm heart we wish him all the very best for a brilliant judicial presence in the Delhi High Court.
Shri D. Manmohan Vice-President (MZ)
Hon’ble outgoing President Shri Ramasubramanian V. Easwar and Incoming President Shri G.E.Veerabhadrappa Garu my esteemed colleagues, President of the ITAT Bar Association Dr. K.Shivram, Distinguished Members of the Legal Profession as well as the Profession of CAs who have assembled here and learned representatives of the Department.
As all of you are aware that we have gathered here to bid farewell to Shri R.V.Easwar who has been elevated as Judge of High Court of Delhi. He practiced as an Advocate in Chennai for 16 years from 1975 to 1991 in the chamber of Shri Srinivasan Sr. Advocate. Though he was a qualified Chartered Accountant, he preferred to join the legal profession; his specialised knowledge in taxation and accounts might have weighed in his mind to choose his career in the field of taxation. He was selected as Judicial Member in 1991 and served for over 20 years as J.M., as Vice-President, as Sr.Vice-President and as officiating President of the ITAT. He is an asset to the institution and many path-breaking judgments rendered by him would serve as beacons for posterity while interpreting the basic judicial principles, particularly in the taxation field. Apart from arguing several important cases as an Advocate, he also rendered number of thoughtful judgments. I do not wish to mention the list of cases since tenure as a Judge of High Court might give him a chance to render many more important Judgments which may outshine his own earlier work as Judge of the Tribunal.
Shri Easwar always believed in the adage that justice should not only be done but it should appear to be done and also believed in the philosophy that giving a patient ear to the Counsels on both sides and meeting those points would give them more satisfaction. I have had an opportunity of sitting with him in wealth tax cases and my personal experience is that though he understands the issue in no time he would never demonstrate by disturbing the thought-flow of the Counsels by the process of asking too many questions on the Bench and would rather patiently wait for an opportune moment to put-forth his views to seek clarification.
On several occasions Judges of Supreme Court of India and various other countries have deliberated on the issue of restatement of Judicial ethics. Some referred to HOLY GITA to state that a Judge should be totally detached from the Judgment he is rendering and he should be unbiased. Similarly some referred to Socrates’ suggestions i.e., to hear courteously, answer wisely, consider soberly, decide impartially. Justice Lahoti, Former Chief Justice of India has summarised the qualities as four P’s i.e., Punctuality, Probity, Promptness and Patience. I am sure all of you who have gathered here would agree with me that My Lord Justice Easwar is an embodiment of all those virtues and in fact much more than what is stated therein. May GOD give him all the support to effectively render justice as a High Court Judge.
Our heartiest congratulations on your elevation to the High Judicial Office and we all wish you a happy and successful career as a Member of distinguished Judiciary.
Speech delivered by Shri R V Easwar, President
Dr Shivaram, President of the ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, Mr Dastur and Mr Dinesh Vyas, senior advocates, other members of the ITAT Bar Association, Mr Arvind Dalai, senior chartered accountant, members of the accountancy profession, Mr Pawan Ved, CIT (DR) and other officers of the IRS, Mr Veerabhadrappa and Mr Manmohan, Vice-Presidents of the ITAT, my colleagues in the Mumbai Benches of the ITAT, ladies and gentlemen:
Frankly, I am searching for words to adequately express my gratitude for the platitudes spoken about me in the past hour or so. All I can say is that you have been generous in your praise and very indulgent in overlooking my drawbacks. In a remote sense, I was looking forward to this day with some nervousness and there was a time in the past couple of days when I thought that after all this occasion – this honour conferred upon me by the Bar – may not take place due to shortage of time and other logistics. But I am grateful now to the ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, for having convened this Full Court Reference, which is so special to me, in very short notice, in a clear indication to me of the affection you have for me. I will not forget this gesture, which also, I understand, lays down a precedent of sorts.
Today is judgment day for me. I accept your judgment with all humility.
I read for almost 16 years in the chambers of my revered senior, the late Mr K Srinivasan, senior advocate of Madras. What he did not Know about the tax law was not worth Knowing. He took me under his -wings and took care to see that I am properly groomed in the highest traditions of the Madras Bar. He would often tell me that in whatever field one is engaged in, one should avoid shortcuts. Whenever I called on him after I joined the Tribunal, he would repeat that the moment I thought that I knew more than the counsel, I became unfit to continue as a judicial officer and should quit. I am proud to have been part of his chamber. I must also mention that Mr D S Meenakshisundaram, my first Vice-President in Calcutta when I joined the Tribunal, also came from the same chamber. The senior present here would vouch for his knowledge, balance of judgment and uprightness.
My nearly twenty-year stint in the Tribunal taught me quite a few lessons, not the least of them was patience. I did take time to understand the case but that was because I genuinely believed that everything that has to be said about the case must be said and must be heard. May be I am even guilty of delaying some of my orders, but I assure you that in all such cases the only reason was that I struggled to come to grips with the complexity of the case. The Tax Bar of all the places I had the privilege to work – Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad – exhibited enormous patience in putting up with me and I am obliged to all of them for having enlightened me on the subject with remarkable precision and clarity. My orders were the result of inputs from counsel on either side which came after a painstaking research made by them. If you think that the orders were readable, that is only because of the arguments of counsel on both sides which came after a painstaking research made by them. If you think that the orders were readable, that is only because of the arguments of counsel on both sides. The howlers were entirely mine.
I must mention the strenuous efforts put in by the officers of the income-tax department who represented the cases before me. I am aware of the immense constraints under which they work and the lack of support from the field on many occasions. With all these limitations for which they are not to blame at all, they have done a remarkable job, without being over-awed by the stature of the counsel on the other side. I am obliged to them for their contribution to my work.
I worked under four Presidents and each had a different style of functioning. Without taking away anything from any of them, I must mention the late Mr T V Rajagopala Rao who stood by me in times of distress. I was treated very kindly by all my bothers with whom I worked in these years and I know that they put up gladly with my habit of delaying their lunch! I did learn quite a bit from many of them which I put to good use in my work. They have been very kind to me and I can claim that I did not have any misunderstanding with any of them at any point of time. I will cherish their support. I wish them ail the very best!
The institutional integrity and independence are to be fiercely guarded from undesirable elements and their designs. This is the responsibility of the Members of the ITAT no doubt, but consistent with the adage "Yatha Raja, Thatha Praja", it is the primary responsibility of the person who heads the institution who must lead by example. Unless that happens, he will have no moral authority to check wrongdoings on the part of the stakeholders of the institution. This aspect is non-negotiable and must be realized by all those concerned with the well-being of the Tribunal. It has been my experience that it is the President of the Tribunal who can make or mar the Tribunal. Of all sabotages, the internal sabotage is the worst kind and most difficult to find out or remedied. The ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, which is a premier body amongst the Tax Bars has a responsibility to ensure this does not happen and it is my appeal to them that as always in the past, they must continue to act as a watchdog. I am grateful to the Tax Bar Associations, particularly the ITAT Bar Association, Bombay for taking up cudgels against unhealthy intrusions into the independence of the Tribunal. At the same time, it may also motivate the Members to give off their best if good, clean and honest work and behavior is recognized, encouraged and appreciated.
I take this opportunity to thank the registry and the staff of the Tribunal. Their work is little recognized. They work under conditions far from ideal. They work under several uncertainties. Many of them continue to be ad hoc employees. These are problems which have to be remedied so that they feel secure and safe. I could not complete whatever I started in this regard. I hope their grievances are heard by the right quarters. The staff of the Tribunal are a strong bulwark and their grievances cannot be ignored for long. I must make particular mention of the secretarial staff – the PS and the Senior PS’ – who continue with their work silently and undaunted. Their merit is not adequately recognized or appreciated. Whenever I worked, I found them top class, punctual, efficient and very hard-working. I am grateful to all the staff of the registry and the PS and Senior PS who are rendering invaluable assistance to the Members. Every member of the staff of the Tribunal, right from the Registrar to the daily-wager, is putting in his or her best under the given circumstances and I thank each one of them for the support.
I belief in destiny, I believe in God. How else can I explain what has come to me in the form of elevation to the High Court? I accept it with all humility and dedicate it to all those who have played a role in shaping me, my mental makeup, my personality and have helped me deserve it. I can say no more.
I once again express my gratitude to all of you for giving me this Full Court reference. Thank you all and Jai Hind!