The author laments that while a heinous crime like terrorism is being fought spiritedly with commandos and bullets, not much is being done about corruption. He warns that corruption is a cancer which is slowly corroding the roots of our society and urges that it is our duty to fight corruption with the same spirit with which we fight terrorism.
1. Honorable Shri Justice R.C. Lahoti, former Chief Justice of India, while addressing the National Tax Conference of the Federation at Indore on 7-9-2002 (AIFTP Journal, Sept., 2002 P. 7) has stated as under:
“Corruption is a cancer eating in to the roots of the society. It is difficult to fight against corruption because the chances of success are bleak; but this is no reason for despondency. Nobody is born corrupt; it is the vitiated atmosphere in the society and the system of governance which converts the clean in to corrupt. An honest person resists corruption but allurements and temptations at times prevail upon him and once corrupt, even an honest person prefers and finds it convenient to stay corrupt. The seeds of corruption are sown in the mind of the man and the cure, if any, lies in eradicating the seeds of corruption from his mind. An honest revenue official says “The honest are hounded; they are humiliated; they are ignored; they are manipulated; they are used, they are punished; they became the laughing stock in society and their families; even their very honesty is suspected. In spite of that, there are many honest officers in the department who remain honest against all adversities. They are special species; they have to be preserved and protected.”
2. It is very unfortunate that no political party has any specific agenda to fight against corruption. I suspect that the real reason behind this slackness is that it is not possible to fight because it has become part of our system in which we live. Corruption can be minimized by bringing the concept of accountability, transparency and computerization. By introduction of computerization of reservation of railway tickets, the corruption in the system has been brought down almost to minimum.
3. Dr. Raja Chelliah in his Final Report (1992) 197 ITR 177(St) (257) stated in para 5.9.
“Ways must be found to hold the officers accountable for the kinds of assessments he makes, under the present procedure, an Assessing Officer, whether he be a Superintendent of Central Excise or an Income tax Officer, can over assess, raise additional demands without sufficient grounds and yet remain unconcerned and unaffected if his over assessments and additional demands or orders confirming demands raised by him are dismissed as untenable by the Tribunal. In fact, there is tendency on the part of some of Assessing Officers to recommend to the Commissioner /Collector that almost every case in which the Commissioner (Appeals) or Collector (Appeal) has not sustained the additional demands created by them should be referred to the Tribunal because they stand to lose nothing if the Tribunal also rules against their action. The Assessing Officers should be made accountable for their actions by being blamed for raising demands which are not up held by the tribunal. If the percentage of demands not up held is higher than 50 percent, the officers should be given a black mark and reprimanded. On the other hand an Assessing officer should be protected and defended if he has obeyed instructions of the Board and followed court rulings even though audit might raise objections about his actions. No officer should be blamed or given an adverse remark merely because audit has raised objections.”
Though the report was presented in the year 1992, which ever may be the political party in power, no one has taken any interest to introduce the said provision. If Government is really serious about reduction of corruption, then the concept of accountability has to be introduced in the tax law.
4. In our country, right from small business men to big corporates, all are made to contribute to election process. However the same is not allowable as business expenditure. This has lead to such contribution being paid secretly and not being reported in the contributors’ books of account.
I suggest that the law should be amended to the effect that any contribution made to recognized political parties may be allowed as deduction. This will be a progressive step in reduction of generation of unaccounted money.
5. According to the Federation, subordinate courts and Tribunals should have a vigilance cell and proper protection should be provided to the whistleblowers because these are the people who do not stay mute in the face of glaring injustice and choose to voice their complaints without fear. It would be appropriate to introduce a whistle blower legislation which has been introduced in several countries world wide. The Law Commissions, 179th report on public interest disclosures and protection of informers prepared by Shri Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy states that “Good faith whistleblowers represent the highest ideals of public service and challenge abuses of power. They test loyalty with highest moral principles but place the country above loyalties to persons or Governments”.
6. The potential role of a professional as ‘the middle man’ or ‘facilitator’ in corruption should not be ignored. Such a professional plays a pivotal role in concluding a transaction of corruption to its evil end.
In this context, it is worth appreciating the initiative taken by the ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, which has constituted a committee of three senior and highly respected members and made an appeal to members to bring to their notice if any unethical practice is being followed by its’ members (see www.itatonline.org). If all Bar Associations in India follow the code of ethics adopted by the members of ITAT Bar Association and maintain vigilance over corruption, it may help to reduce the unethical practices adopted by the professionals and in turn the corruption.
7. Corruption is eroding the fabric of nation. It is duty of the citizens to fight the same with same spirit as how our commandos fought the terrorism. The professional organizations can play a proactive role by asking the public authorities how the tax payer’s money has been spent.
Though the Government is collecting the money in the form of educational cess for the betterment of education the money has been not utilized for the education. With the effective use of Right of Information Act, the professional can play a positive role and make the public servants accountable to the nation. The tax professionals must thoroughly study our tax systems and this should be ongoing process so as to suggest how complexity in laws, which breed corruption because of difficulty in compliance, can be eradicated.
8. Readers can please send their views.
Dr. K. SHIVARAM
(Reproduced with permission from the AIFTP Journal – December 2008 issue)