The Author fondly refers to the Tribunal as ‘Mother’ and urges that by the time its Platinum Jubilee is celebrated, it must be regarded as the finest legal Institution in the Country. It is possible, he says, if the Bar and the Bench play their part in preserving the honour, dignity and purity of the Tribunal!
The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is one of the oldest temples of justice in our country of which, the Bench and the Bar are its trustees. On the occasion of 40th anniversary of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Shri N. A. Palkhivala in his article stated that “There is no doubt that over the period of 40 years, the Tribunal has been manned by some very able men. Quite a few of them would be fit to adorn any High Court Bench. No other Tribunal in India has won such well deserved popularity and confidence of the public as the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal”. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is even today considered as one of the finest institutions of our country, when compared with other institutions. For shaping this Institution the contribution of Late Shri N. A. Palkhivala, Late Shri R. J. Kolah, Late Shri S. P. Mehta and many others deserves to be remembered.
Hon’ble Shri R. V. Easwar has assumed charge at Mumbai as Officiating President of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal with effect from 3rd June, 2010. Professionals have great expectations from him and he has a great responsibility as head of the Institution. His thought’s on “Effective Dispensation of Justice”, which was published in Regional Refresher Course for Members, at Mumbai on 4th Nov., 2006, is published in this issue of journal for the benefit of our members.
Bar has to play a proactive role and should act with great responsibility to maintain and preserve the honour, dignity and purity of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. We, therefore, make an appeal to our readers to consider and debate on following suggestions:–
(A) DUTY OF PROFESSIONALS
1. Members who practice before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal must follow the code of ethics adopted by the ITAT Bar Association and Federation.
The ITAT Bar Association and AIFTP has adopted a model code of ethics which may be followed by all members who practice before the Tribunal (Refer, AIFTP Journal Vol. 2 No. 3 P. No. 47 July–September, 2001. It is also heartening to note that as per the circular dt. 20-6-2008 issued by the President the Members of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal are also advised to follow the code of ethics adopted by the judges of the Apex Court and High Court to maintain the highest standard of values in judicial service and there should be no deviation in this regard. (Refer, www.itatonline.org or AIFTP Journal, July, 2008 P. 34).
2. Follow the Rules of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
Professionals who represent the matters before the Tribunal must follow the Rules and Regulations of the ITAT, which will help to save the precious time of Bench and speedy disposal of appeals. Only authorized representative as per section 288 of the Income-tax Act is permitted to appear before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. Therefore, sending a clerk or peon to take an adjournment before the Tribunal will lead to disrespect to the Institution, which practice must be avoided.
3. Submissions in writing in important matters.
When an important issue is to be decided it may be desirable for both the parties to prepare and submit the brief propositions in writing so that the Bench may be able to deal with all the issues. This will help to pass the quality and well reasoned order. This practice is being followed in some of the important matters before the Apex Court and High Courts.
(B) EXPECTATION OF THE BAR FROM THE BENCH
1. Speaking and Reasoned order.
Under section 260A, an appeal can be filed before the High Court only on substantial questions of law. When appeal comes for hearing, first the order of the Tribunal is read hence, the Tribunal being final fact finding authority it is very essential for it to deal with all the aspects of facts and law. Vide circular dt. 11-12-2007 the president had issued detailed guidelines for the consideration of members (Refer AIFTP Journal, July 2008 P. 36). At present about 80% of orders of the Tribunal were approved at the time of admission itself. If a sincere attempt is made to pass quality orders we are of the opinion that the 90% of orders may be approved at the admission stage itself.
2. Precedent and Convention from Higher Judiciary.
Certain conventions and precedent followed by the Judges of High Courts and Apex Court may be followed by the Bench, which will enhance the image of the Institution from the perspective of the citizens of our country.
(C) COLLECTIVE EFFORTS OF BAR AND BENCH
1. Refresher course to members.
It may be desirable to have refresher courses for members of ITAT at least once in year, which may be addressed by the sitting Judges of High Court who hear the tax appeals regularly, senior members of the Bar. The Income-tax Act, 1961 refers to 92 other Central Acts, therefore, knowing the basic principles of general law and development of law may help to pass quality order in tax matters.
2. Increase the retirement age limit of Members from 62 to 65.
At Regional Refresher Course for Members held at Mumbai on 4th November, 2006, then Hon’ble Law Minister Shri H. R. Bharadwaj stated that he is proposing to increase the retirement age limit of Members from present age of 62 to 65. There is also a proposal to increase the retirement age limit of High Court Judges from 62 to 65. The Bar and Bench may pursue to increase the retirement age of members from 62 to 65. The experience and knowledge of the Members can be used for speedy disposal of tax matters.
3. Elevation of deserving Members to High Court.
The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has many Members who deserves to be elevated to High Court. The process of elevation may be institutionalized by complete transparency. This will help the High Courts in speedy disposal of tax matters. Main purpose of the proposed National Tax Tribunal is to reduce the pendency of tax matters before various High Courts. At present the pendency of tax matters before the various High Courts has reduced considerably. There is a proposal to set up a separate Division of commercial fast track courts in all the High Courts. There can be a separate division for taxation matters within the High Courts. This will help to reduce the pendency of tax matters. According to us, by experience and knowledge, the Members of the ITAT are more suited to be elevated to the High Court for Tax matters. In this scenario, the Government may reconsider the proposal of National Tax Tribunal the Constitutional Validity of which is pending before the Apex Court.
60% of appeals before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is of the department, by making certain amendments in the forms and rules it may be possible for the ITAT to know all the important common issues pending before various benches of Tribunal. At present most of the orders are available on the website of ITAT as soon as the same is pronounced. It may be possible to forward the orders by e-mail to the assessee and the department as soon as the same is pronounced. This may help the assessee as well as the department. A committee may be constituted consisting of representative from ITAT, Department, Bar and Assessee for effective implementation of computerization of ITAT.
When mother Tribunal celebrates its Platinum Jubilee celebration on 25-1-2016, the citizens of our country should feel and acknowledge that The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is the finest institution of our country. This will be the greatest honour to the Institution as well as the professionals who practice before the Institution. We appeal to all the professionals who practice before the Tribunal to play a proactive role by sending objective suggestions to “ITAT Bar Associations’ Co-ordination Committee” of the Federation to maintain and preserve the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal as one of the finest institutions of our country.
Dr. K. SHIVARAM
Reproduced with permission from the AIFTP Journal, June 2010