Does Anybody In The Govt. Care For The Welfare Of The Income-tax Tribunal?

The author, an eminent advocate, is unable to hide his frustration at the continued indifference of the Government towards the welfare of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. Though three long years have passed and three Law Ministers have come and gone, nobody has bothered to address the core problems being faced by the Mother Tribunal. The author again lists out the core issues and urges the Government to shed its apathy, get its act together and act speedily to save this majestic judicial Institution from decay

The Income -tax Appellate Tribunal, which has completed 72 years of existence, is considered as one of the finest institutions of our Country. The former President Shri Vimal Gandhi retired on 3-6-2010, however, till date, no permanent President is appointed, Senior-Vice President / Vice-President is acting as Officiating President. It is for the first time that for more than two years and ten months Vice-President has been functioning as an Officiating President. By not appointing the President, Senior Vice President and Vice Presidents, the Government is sending a wrong message that, we have no members who deserve to be appointed to lead the institution. If that is so, how the citizens will have confidence in the Institution.

By not appointing the President, Sr. Vice President and Vice Presidents, the Govt is sending a wrong message that we have no members who deserve to be appointed to lead the institution. If that is so, how the citizens will have confidence in the Institution?

The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal is a judicial body, has to deal with cases of Revenue and Assessee. An acting President may not be able to take many bold decisions for better administration of justice. It is also to be noted that if this trend continues many competent and senior professionals who may be having the desire to serve the nation by joining the Bench may not come forward and make an application to be appointed as members of the Tribunal, because there is neither elevation to High Court, nor will they be promoted as Vice-President or President nor they will be entitled to practice before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal.

At the inaugural function of the ITAT Members’ conference at Mumbai on 4th November, 2006, the then Hon’ble Law Minster Mr. H.R. Bharadwaj stated that he is in favour of raising the retirement age of members of the ITAT from present age of 62 to 65, but till date there is no move in this direction. The Bill for increasing the age limit of High Court judges from 62 to 65 which was published in the Official Gazette on 25th August 2010 has been approved by the Parliament standing Committee headed by Smt. Jayanti Natarajan, Member of Raja Sabha, in the year 2010, however till date Bill has not became an Act.

If the Govt does not take any initiative to better the administration of justice by Income- tax Appellate Tribunal, the future of the Institution will be at stake and the Tribunal may not be able to retain its glory as one of the finest institution of our Country

If the Government does not take any initiative to better the administration of justice by Income- tax Appellate Tribunal, the future of the Institution will be at stake and the Tribunal may not be able to retain its glory as one of the finest institution of our Country. Due to certain unfortunate incident which happened few years back, one cannot brand the entire institution as bad. We can say with full pride that we do have number of members who are men of integrity and knowledge. It is the duty and responsibility of the Bar to protect the members who are men of integrity so that they can discharge their duty without any fear or favour.

Members of the ITAT also have a greater responsibility to preserve the honour and dignity of the institution so that the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal retains its glory as one of the finest institution of our country and we feel proud that we are part of it. It is our sincere desire to preserve the honour, dignity and to get unpolluted justice from the final fact finding body which is the mother Tribunal. There are good number of professionals who are men of integrity, knowledge and excellent reputation and who appear before this august institution and higher forums regularly and few of them have been appearing before this institution for more than 50 years. They have witnessed the past glory of this institution, they are well conversant with the present atmosphere prevailing in the functioning of this institution, they have taken lead in preserving the independence of this institution. We therefore suggest as under;

(1) that in the interest of the institution, the posting of the President needs to be confirmed at the earliest,

(2) Post of the Senior Vice-President, and Vice –Presidents may be filled up the earliest,

(3) Strength of members of ITAT is 126 members and only 86 members are functioning and another three will retire during the year. Thereby there will be vacancy of 42 members of ITAT as on 1-1-2014. Because of non filling the vacancy of members the pendency has increased and some of the stations there are no benches functioning. It is very necessary to start the process of interview for selection of members at the earliest;

(4) Retirement age limit of Judges and Members may be increased from 62 to 65

(5) Institutionalise the process of elevation to High Court from the ITAT, so that many deserving members of the ITAT can be elevated;

(6) Speedy judicial enquiry and final report on Kolkata episode may be published at the earliest;

(7) Concept of E. Tribunal which is functioning at Mumbai may be extended to smaller places, and this innovative concept may be tried to have E. Benches of Supreme Court linked with all the High Courts;

(8) Hon’ble Law Minster may have to devote some time to interact with Bar and Bench for better administration of Justice.

We hope the Hon’ble law minister will spare some time to interact with the Bar and Bench on the above issues and other important issues for better administration of Justice and the Income tax Appellate Tribunal Bar Associations will play a proactive role to maintain and preserve the Mother Tribunal as one of the finest institution of our country.

Jai hind

Dr. K. Shivaram


Reproduced with permission from the AIFTP Journal, April 2013

9 comments on “Does Anybody In The Govt. Care For The Welfare Of The Income-tax Tribunal?
  1. see sir, government of india has a debt of abt Rs. 46 lac crores which it is paying about 5% per year. Revenue is about 20 lac crores or so.
    every year new loans that way govt debt is increasing and per head i mean citizen loan is about Rs.36,000/-, but government goes on wasting on non plan expenditure gungho.

    Problem is we only as we only promoted such great governments in india.

    Government cares less constitutional proprieties; some tribunal judgements promoted by Account members is remanding back the issues even in bad in law situation brought before hon tribunals.

    All these show what is our constitutional standards today.

    first past and present members need put their heads to what are the duties and obligations of revenue to tax payers that may perhaps help create a manual for members of the very tribunal as to how to write meaningful speaking orders, i do not mean all orders now written are very bad, but they too can improve if they only work with a mission on justice…courts are not to see government earns revenue but whether government revenue is rightly sourced or not
    is vital, when that is done some betterment in judging can take place.

    Fact remains judicial members unless strong mentally cannot help the tribunal grow much better.

    Tribunal shd not allow any influence by revenue, as revenue even here tries to rule though a lot of tribunal judgements are indeed good and moving towards excellence but not enough.

    In a Jamaican case reported in Madras Bar Association v NTT at SC brought out the fact…, that legislature cannot over rule common law or the constitutional proprieties, that way NTT Act itself was set aside by 5 member SC bench led by thenCJI mr. Lodha…kindly read the realy landmark judgement which brought to light how government did not take back to Lok sabha, the bill, after the opinion of select committee on the bill, comments on lacunae.
    see how the bill became an Act, indeed a ultra vires act by government… can we gulp that Act!

    ponder over a while if we want robust judicial system.

    Al have a necessary role to build proper bulwarks for our well drafted constitution which is a great cock tail of good constitutions of the world then existing in 1947 …

    any way sad there is no meaningful taxation jurisprudence in place is indeed a great fact that deficiency would harm the nation unless remedials are in place by serious judicial reviews in all constitutional high courts to build a healthy tax jurisprudence under hon SC leading the whole gamut to really happen to in the interest of common citizens who are the real sovereign of India even today.

    i feel very sorry…regrds

  2. Arun Giri says:

    As a financial journalist for 9 years ( last 2 years as Editor of a tax portal ) and having tracked ITAT in that role, i ve been witness to both highs and lows of the Tribunal. As Dr. Shivram rightly says, this is one of the rough patches of ITAT. The Government doesn’t seem too bothered about the state of an important Tribunal, which is the final fact finding authority as far as tax cases are concerned. How else does one explain the shocking episode of the ITAT website being down/unavailable for almost 1.5 months?? This, in a country which prides itself over technology expertise. It clearly shows that the priorities need to be set right. But more than anything what the Tribunal needs is Bold Leadership ( ala Justice Easwar ) which will inspire confidence in the ITAT judges, Bar as well as IRS officers. But at this low point of Tribunal, lets also not forget that this is an institution that has produced quite a few quality tax rulings that have been discussed all round the tax world. Yes it is going through a bad patch… but even Champions stutter once in a while… it would be apt to quote an old sports adage.. ” Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent.” ITAT ‘s form may have hit a Sehwagesque patch but some initiative from the Law Ministry as well as decisive leadership at ITAT could turn things around quickly and rebuild the high level of public trust this Institution enjoyed until very recently.

  3. Pradeep says:

    Height of saddistic delights…..its too cool a comfort. Don’t belittle this forum by such mean comments. Let the focus not be lost. Let’s think of how to repair and reform.

  4. Pradeep says:

    You are right, Harron. Let’s throw baby with the hot water.

  5. Haroon Yususf says:

    I am happy that exalted ITAT is undergoing all this. One must pay for it’s sins be it individual or institution. To say the least ITAT had become an ultimate resort of tax-evaders. Good work of many honest taxmen was being undone under the august shed of ITAT. It’s high time that ITAT introspects rather than being sanctimonious!

  6. DS says:

    It is the same story about Lucknow. No work for last eight months. Only touring benches once in a while.

    In Jaipur, Rajkot, and Chadigarh also, the work has some to a standstill.

  7. Agarwal says:

    When Justice Easwar was leaving the Tribunal, on his elevation as a High Court judge, he had said :

    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.

    As ITAT traverses through its worse patch so far, these words of wisdom offer guidance to those at the helm of affairs, as also everyone. Despite all shortcomings, ITAT is a great institution and, once it comes out of these troubled times, it will certainly play an important role in the tax judicial system.

    Dr Shivram’s frustration is understandable. However, its not that institution cannot be salvaged. A President, who can take everybody along and also work as a tough administrator, can make all the difference. This is where Government has an all important role to play. As long as you have an effective administration, and Members have their fearless independence, the ITAT can play a very effective role in the tax judicial system.

    Lets not give up the hope. Once hopes are gone, everything is gone.

  8. M S says:

    Never before did the ITAT had such a bad patch of time. The administration does not exist, and everything is in auto pilot mode. How long can it go on like this?

  9. Ajoy Gupta says:

    In Kolkata Benches the disposal has become practicaly Nil in last 7 months & pendency is increasing. Against sanctioned 5 menches(10 members) only 3 members are posted & there is no Vice president posted for more then 4 years.Eastern Zone is without a Vice President for more then 4 years though much smaller Zones have one. In the whole Eastern Zone there are about 10 benches including Kolkata but at present there are only 4 members posted.The work of Eastern Zone including Kolkata benches is suffering immensly but the authorities are not paying any attention at all .

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