The author argues that the Bar must not just complain about faults in the judicial process but must play a proactive role in bringing about reforms. He makes a fervent plea that we should follow the Ten Commandments and promises that we can then restore the Tribunal to its’ past pristine glory.
The role of the Bar in the administration of justice is no less than that of the Bench. It has been therefore, rightly said that only a good Bar makes for a good Bench. Hence, the Bar should evolve healthy conventions in order to maintain the institution’s prestige and honour. Hon’ble Mr. Justice M. Srinivasan in Dayal Sons vs. CIT (1998) 231 ITR 569 (571) (H.P.) has stated that “The profession of an advocate is a very noble profession and he is entrusted with a duty to be performed in the Court. He is not only an agent of the client in one sense but also an officer of the Court. He has got threefold duties; one towards the Client; another towards Court and the third towards the opposing Counsel”.
Hon’ble Mr. Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer in the landmark decision of Bar Council of Maharashtra vs. M. V. Dhabolkar AIR 1976 SC 242 (251) held that “law is no trade briefs no merchandise and so the leaven of commercial competition or procurement should not vulgarise the legal profession”. The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal is even today considered as one of the finest institutions of our country when compared with other institutions and the Tax Bar is recognized as one of the best Bars of our country. This has been made possible due to continuous education, ethics and values followed by the stalwarts of the Tax Bar such as Shri R. J. Kolah, Shri N. A. Palkhivala, Shri S. P. Mehta and many others. We have great responsibility to preserve the honour, dignity and purity of the institution before which we practice. Let us work together, hand-in-hand and see that the Tribunal retain its glory as one of the finest institutions in this country and as model for other institutions to follow. We, therefore, make an appeal to our readers to consider the following suggestions:–
1. The ITAT Bar Association and AIFTP has adopted a model code of ethics which may be followed by all the members who practice before the Tribunal. Visit www.itatonline.org or see AIFTP Journal Vol. 2 No. 3 Page No. 47 of July-September, 2001 issue.
2. The Hon’ble President has issued guidelines for passing of orders which is published in AIFTP Journal Vol. 11 No. 7 Page Nos. 35 to 37 of July, 2008 issue and www.itatonline.org. If any of the member is not following the guidelines, the same may be brought to the notice of the Hon’ble President or Vice President of the respective zone.
3. The ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, has constituted Ethics Committee consisting of three eminent professionals. Any member of the association may bring to the notice of the members of the committee any unethical practice followed by any member of the profession which damages the reputation and credential of the institution.
4. The Registrar of ITAT has made various suggestions for guidance of assessee’s and their representatives, (1951) 20 ITR (St.) 49. Members are requested to follow the same which will save the precious time of the Tribunal and help for better administration.
5. Only authorized representatives as specified in section 288 of the Income-tax Act, can make representation before the Tribunal. It may be noted that even taking an adjournment before the Tribunal is representation before the Tribunal. The Tribunal is a Court for all practical purposes. However, they are not governed by the technicalities of the Court. It has been observed that many assessee’s send their clerk and many professionals also send their article clerk to take adjournment. The said practice deserves to be discouraged as it affects the prestige and honour of the institution. Only the authorized representatives with proper dress and authorization may be sent for taking an adjournment.
6. All judgments of Supreme Court and High Courts are available in the site and any person can take advantage of such orders. However, the orders of the Tribunal are not available in the site. In the era of technology and transparency, it is desired that all the orders of the Tribunal may also be made available in the site of ITAT, which will benefit the assessees as well as the department for effective representation.
7. Pendency in ITAT has reduced from 3 lakhs (1998-99) to 50,000, for which the administration and Hon’ble Members deserves to be congratulated. The Tribunal being final fact finding body, there is great responsibility on the members to pass a well reasoned order, which will help the High Court to decide the substantial questions of law.
8. Income-tax is the only central legislation of our country which refers to 92 Central Acts and various State legislation. Hence, there has to be continuous educational training programmes for the professionals, departmental representatives as well as members of the Tribunal, which will help the development of law and administration of justice.
9. Income-tax Appellate Tribunal is the only quasi-judicial body in our country which has adopted the code of ethics, adopted by the Judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. See AIFTP Journal Vol. 11 No. 7 Page No. 34 of July, 2008 issue. If any member is not following the said code, the same may be brought to the notice of the President or Vice President of the respective zone.
10. ITAT Bar Associations’ Co-ordination Committee, which was very active earlier has become defunct since last few years. The ITAT Bar Associations’ Co-ordination Committee can play a positive role in making this institution one of the finest institution of our country.
We are hopeful that in the years to come, the assessees will be able to get justice from the final fact finding authority within six months of filing of an appeal.
We will appreciate the valuable suggestions from the readers.
Dr. K. SHIVARAM
(Reproduced with permission from the AIFTP Journal – March 2009 issue)