Address by the President at Orientation and Training Programme
for New Members*
Hon’ble Shri Vimal Gandhi, President, ITAT
The Hon’ble President gives important pointers on the factors that new Members should bear in mind when sitting on the Bench.
It is a matter of great pride for all of us to, have our Chief Guest Justice Madam Sujata Manohar, a unique personality, not only one of the best judges of this country who has delivered hundreds of landmark judgments, but a fighter for the right of every individual, to live with dignity, particularly unprivileged and destitute women.
I am not sure whether Madam remembers my meeting with her for the first time about two decades ago in Indore in 1986-87 where I was posted as a Judicial Member. Smt. Roopmati, a young widow had become Sati in Rajasthan and in connection with that issue three lady judges, Madam, Justice Musammad Fatima Biwi and one lady judge from Calcutta High Court were invited to speak at a seminar at Indore. Justice Madam Sujata Manohar at that time impressed everybody with her view point and her concern regarding, difficulties a common woman has to face. Thereafter Justice Madam Sujata Manohar was elevated as a judge of Supreme Court, and we all know how she always remained champion in the cause of justice and fair play. She has stood for the independence of Judicial bodies. We are very lucky, and thankful to her, for sparing her time, to attend and inaugurate this programme, of “Orientation and Training” for new Members.
As a Member of the Bench in ITAT, you will have to shed your one sided view, make sincere efforts, to appreciate the arguments of both sides, remain neutral and exhibit a sense of detachment and aloofness. The ultimate result is of no consequence.
In the past, Members were given “Orientation and Training” – but that required new members, only to sit in the Bench as ‘Observer’ for two to three weeks, to watch the proceedings of the Bench, get some information and advice from Senior Members, and take a book on “convention” before their regular posting. But that to my mind, this did not fulfil the objective. After great deal of deliberation, with Vice Presidents and Senior Members in the Tribunal, we decided, that Members should receive, valuable inputs, as to how, they should conduct themselves both on and off the Bench, how they should interact with their colleagues, Members of Bar, and Officers of the Income-tax Department and so forth.
New Members in the Tribunal, come from different background, different professions, with different experiences and from different parts of the country. For those who join from the profession of law and accountancy, as also those who come from Indian Revenue Service, sitting on the Bench would be a totally new experience. They might have seen benches, and argued before them, but there is a difference between arguing a case, and sitting on the Bench. Therefore, we thought that for this new experience, they should be made aware of the basic things. We considered that, it would be beneficial for them, if some lectures are arranged on general topics, concerning functioning of the Courts and the Tribunal. The new Members, must also know of history of our organization, the value system, tradition and the culture, the expectation of tax payers, the tax-collectors, Bar and public at large. It would also benefit, the new Members if they are told something, about the latest trends in the taxation laws and about, emerging and ever-changing global scenario. With this end in view, for the first time in 2005, for some 20 new Members, we had arranged an orientation and training programme in Delhi for two weeks. We had invited eminent Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, Vice-Presidents and former Members of the Tribunal, to address them and to talk about their experiences in the judicial life. The programme was found to be useful. Encouraged by that effort, we have thought of, arranging the present programme for the benefit of new Members.
As professionals or as tax collectors, you have seen only one side of the coin. But as a Member of the Bench in ITAT, you will have to shed your one sided view, make sincere efforts, to appreciate the arguments of both sides, remain neutral and exhibit a sense of detachment and aloofness.
Brothers and Sisters, with the joining of the Appellate Tribunal your career is undergoing a change. As professionals or as tax collectors, you have seen only one side of the coin. But as a Member of the Bench in ITAT, you will have to shed your one sided view, make sincere efforts, to appreciate the arguments of both sides, remain neutral and exhibit a sense of detachment and aloofness. The ultimate result is of no consequence. You must be concerned with the process through which you reach the decision. You have to take care, that such decision is balanced, transparent, legal and ethical. All extraneous considerations are to be eschewed. The address of the assessee or quantum involved in the case is totally immaterial. Respect and courtesy is to be shown to the people appearing before the Bench. Patient hearing, without any interruption maintaining pleasant-light atmosphere in court is the hallmark of a good judge. After hearing of the matter the decision should be arrived at after due deliberation but without much delay. A simple principle you should keep in mind to earn respect, is to give respect to the people appearing before you. During the course of this orientation there would be lectures on Court hearing, principles of natural justice, convention and procedures before the Appellate Tribunal, on international taxation etc. some of the subject which would definitely be of use to the Members.
Brothers and Sisters, ITAT is an institution, with very high tradition. It is known as mother of all Tribunals. This is also one of the judicial institutions where docket of pendency has been reduced. Now we have only 75,000 appeals. We are at a very comfortable level. Now, we have to concentrate on our conduct and on the quality of justice we render. The image of the Tribunal is in our hand.
Of late, our Benches have rendered several decisions in uncharted territory of International Taxation, and those decisions have been applauded in International Conferences and Seminars, in articles by leading International Taxation Lawyers and authors of renowned treaties such as Klaus Vogel. All this, to my mind, has put greater responsibility on our shoulders, as now the entire world is watching us. Any slackness or let-up on our part will invite, not only national but international criticism. I have full confidence that my brothers and sisters, will rise to the occasion and continue to strive to show excellence. The orientation and training is meant to initiate and introduce you to our institution. However, excellence will come from your labour, hard work, study of facts of case and law on the subject and as I said earlier, from the quality of your decision. That is what I am expecting from you.
I, therefore, without taking much of time and without standing between you and the Hon’ble Madam Justice Sujata Manohar, hope and pray that all new Members will take full benefit of this orientation and training and join the mainstream of Members to uplift the image of the Tribunal. I once again thank Madam for having inaugurated this orientation and training programme. I am thankful to Madam for being very kind to my Vice-President whenever he visited her with several requests.
Source : Speech delivered at programme for Orientation & Training of New Members, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Mumbai. held from 12th November, 2007 to 28th November, 2007.
Acknowledgement: We are thankful to Hon’ble Presidents, Vice Presidents of ITAT, Mumbai for granting us permission to print the article for the benefit of Tax Professionals.
*Reprodued with permission from the AIFTP Journal – March 2008 Edition.