The Residential Refresher course for members of the ITAT : Expectation of stake holders – The Bench and the Bar are both trustees of the institution and the onus is on them to preserve its dignity, sanctity and purity.
In the Residential Refresher Course held from 17th July to 24 July 2017, at Judicial Academy in Mumbai, one of the subjects of discussion was the “Expectation of stake holders”. Representatives of different ITAT Bar Associations have made various suggestions which need to be considered in the right spirit for better administration of justice. Few of them are as under:
1. All the Bar associations have strongly opposed the new Rules for the appointment of members of the ITAT on tenure basis.
2. The Bar Associations are of the view that the President of the ITAT has to be selected from amongst the members of the ITAT.
3. The appointment of members of the ITAT and promotion of the members of the ITAT must be done on priority basis
4. There should not be any quota for disposal of number of matters by the Members which affects the quality of the orders.
5. Considering the pendency of the matters in any particular zone, the number of Benches may be increased or decreased to better suit the requirements of Bench strength.
6. Proper infrastructure must be provided for better administration of justice.
7. Appointment of departmental representatives on short term basis before the ITAT should be avoided.
We are of the opinion that an assessee rings the bell of justice in the Tribunal only when the assessing officer levies taxes or makes additions which are not in accordance with the law. As appeals involve time and money, both of which the assessee can ill afford to spend, it is natural that he makes a careful cost benefit analysis and elects to appeal only when the stakes are high and there are chances of success. An assessee is no academician and he does not derive any pleasure in obtaining a judgment for the sake of publicity or for laying down a legal precedent. The Tribunal is the final fact finding authority for Income Tax purposes, however the Tribunal being a creature of statute, it cannot traverse beyond the provisions of the statute. The Supreme Court in UOI v. Delhi Bar Association AIR 2002 SC 1347 has observed- ‘Tribunals whether they pertain to Income tax, Sales tax or Excise and Customs or Administration, have now became essential part of the judicial system in this country. Such specialised institutions may not strictly come within the concept of the judiciary, as envisaged by Article 50, but it cannot be presumed that such Tribunals are not effective part of the justice delivery system, like courts of law”. Therefore the Tribunals have greater responsibilities towards the taxpayers of our country. The members of the Tribunal may have to bear in mind that in hearing the appeals they are not merely adjudicating on the issues before them but they are invariably deciding on the fortunes of the assessees. It is moot to consider that a wrong decision against an assessee may ruin his life and relegate him to the position of a pauper. Hence the Tribunal has a greater responsibility towards the citizen. Judicial decisions should not be influenced by the media reporting or personal knowledge of the Members, the matters have to be decided as per the law and facts available on the record.
8. The Bar also has an equal responsibility to assist the Court to deliver qualitative judgments and strive for the independence of the Institution. The Federation has published a “Practical guide for appearing before ITAT” which was published in (2013) AIFTPJ and itatonline.org, for those who desire to make an effective representation before the Tribunal. Professionals may refer the same, which can save substantial time of the Tribunal and also help reducing the pendency before the Tribunal.
It is desired that there must be an Annual Refresher Course for the Members of the Tribunal which can help in rendering better administration of justice.
Proceedings of the inaugural session and first technical session on the subject of “Expectation of the stakeholders” is published on page 75 of this issue for the benefit of the readers. Readers may send their objective suggestion for better administration of justice.
Dr. K. Shivaram