The author laments the prevalent tendency to enact retrospective legislation to nullify judgements that are unpalatable to the Finance Ministry. He argues that this tendency undermines the sanctity of the rule of law and shows scant respect to the judiciary.
The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was established in the year 1941, on a demand from the assessees, perhaps the Bar also, that there should be an independent body of persons to determine the facts or there should be the final court of facts, so far as the Income Tax is concerned. Perhaps this was the first Tribunal which was created in the country. I don’t know whether it was then called Tribunal, Financial Commissioners, as Tribunals were known, when they were hearing revenue appeals. Over the past 66 years, it has fully justified its existence. People have faith in it. Few aberrations here and there are accepted. This is perhaps the only Tribunal, the existence of which has silenced the debate whether we should Tribunalise the justice or not. This is one of the Tribunals, existence of which is not questioned. There are many other Tribunals which have been constituted and which Governments want to constitute, their existence is being questioned or people are asking: If ultimately we have to go to the High Court or to the Supreme Court, why have Tribunals?
I, however, remember till today the eventful one month that preceded the closure of proceedings which I had commenced with great fervour and enthusiasm against the Birlas as a young company circle officer of the Income-tax Deptt. at Calcutta and my first and last encounter with the redoubtable N.A. Palkhivala!