The author dares to ask the question that has been troubling tax professionals across the Country. Why is the Government not appointing a President for the Tribunal? It’s been 23 months since the last President retired and the studied indifference of the Government towards filling the vacancy in this august Institution is sending a wrong message to the Members of the Tribunal and the litigating public, says the author. The author urges the Government to wake up from its slumber and get its act together before the prestige that this great Institution commands begins to erode.
The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal which was founded on 25th January 1941 has completed more than 72 years of its existence. In the 72 years of existence it is for the first time that the reasons best known to the Government the appointment of the President is not confirmed, the former senior vice president and Vice president has been appointed to act as officiating president. The former President Shri Vimal Gandhi retired on 3-6-2010, however, till date the Vice President is acting as Officiating President. It is for the first time that for more than 23 months Senior Vice President and Vice President have been functioning as Officiating President .Similarly, the vacant post of senior Vice-President and Vice Presidents have not yet been filled up. The appointment of President, senior Vice President and Vice presidents is done by the Committee headed by the senior Judge of Supreme Court considering the merit, integrity, conduct of members. It is the Ministry of Law and Justice, which has to send the proposal to the designated Judge of the Supreme Court, a list of eligible members for the consideration of Honourable Judge to be appointed as President, senior Vice-President and Vice-presidents and from the eligible candidates most eligible candidate is selected as President.
By not appointing the President, 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 gain the confidence of the Institution. An acting President may not be able to take many bold decisions for better administration of justice.
The Members of the ITAT are appointed by committee, headed by Judge of Supreme Court. Generally when the members are appointed most of them have completed more than 15 years in practice and are eligible to be appointed as High Court judge. Similarly the Accountant members have been appointed who have completed more than 15 Years in practice as Chartered accountant and from the tax department who have put up at least 15 years of work experience. After joining the ITAT it is only after more than 10 years of service in the ITAT the members are considered for the appointment of President, senior vice president and vice presidents. At present we have 78 members out of which there are 22 members who have rendered more than 10 years of service to the Institution. Are we not in a position to select the president, senior vice president and vice presidents amongst the members who have been selected by the judge of Supreme Court?
Bar is of the well considered view that in the interest of the institution, the posting of the President needs to be confirmed, as well as the Sr. Vice President and Vice Presidents need to be appointed at the earliest. 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 gain the confidence of the Institution. Therefore, in the interest of Institution and better administration of justice before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, it is desired that the Government must make a sincere attempt to appoint the President, Senior Vice president and Vice–Presidents at the earliest. The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal is a judicial body has to deal with cases of Revenue and Assessee. As an acting President he may not be able to take many bold decisions for better administration of justice.
Due to certain unfortunate incidence which happened few years back, we 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
It is also to be noted that if this trend continues many competent and good 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. If this happens 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 incidence which happened few years back, we 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. Let us make an honest attempt to preserve the honour, dignity and to get unpolluted justice from the final fact finding body which is the mother Tribunal. There are professionals who are men of integrity, knowledge and with great reputation, who are appearing 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 the this institution, they are well conversant with the present atmosphere prevailing in the functioning of this institution, they are taken lead in preserving the independence of this institution, it is desired that the Honourable law Minister, President of ITAT, Vice presidents and senior members of the profession must come together and should make an honest attempt disregarding the personal interest to retain the glory of this great institution. The ITAT Bar Association Mumbai has sent their representation to the Honourable law Minister to take an initiative as regards the filling of the vacant posts at the earliest. Professionals who are concerned with the good administration of justice before the Tribunal are requested to send their objective suggestions to preserve the institutional integrity of this great institution.
Reproduced with permission from the AIFTP Journal, May 2012