The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) started functioning in the year 1941 with six Members, constituting three Benches, one each at Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Gradually, the strength increased to nearabout Hi Benches at 27 different stations covering almost all the cities having a seat of the High Court.
As is known, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal acts as a second Appellate Authority in the field of direct taxes. The Appellate Tribunal was under the administrative control of Finance Department of Government of India, from 30th May, 1942, the Tribunal was put under the charge of Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. Since then it has been functioning as an independent authority without any executive interference in discharge of its judicial functions.
The Tribunals were established with the object of providing a speedy, affordable and decentralised determination of disputes. The Income Tax law is a complex piece of legislation where there have been frequent amendments practically every year. Considering this complexity, it must be a challenging task for the adjudicatory bodies, including the Appellate Authority like ITAT to function in an effective manner. Like many other branches, the Government is one of the biggest litigant before the “Tax Authorities and Tribunals.
One of the essential ingredients of justice delivery system is providing adequate opportunity of hearing and maintaining a fair and transparent approach in justice dispensation system. Passing of a reasoned order is one of the essential facets demonstrating
fairness and transparency in the adjudication of disputes.
Judging an issue or a case brought before the adjudicatory body is again one of the complex exercises which the Judges have to constantly undertake. A Judge must be impartial and without bias. A Judge must decide cases without being influenced by the special conscious factors which would normally affect the decision making process. The decisions of Judges are accepted by the public because Judges are seen to be impartial and carrying out their functions in a fair manner.
The principle of fairness, transparency and impartiality in the process of dispensation of justice applies with equal force to all the adjudicatory forums.
Judging is an art and we must try to learn, imbibe and practice that art. It is possible with total dedication, devotion and commitment to the cause of dispensation of justice. At times, it is noticed that if an order is unreasoned one or lacks proper reasoning, it becomes difficult at the higher level to understand and appreciate as to what weighed with the Tribunal or the Authorities in deciding the issue. It would be, therefore, necessary that while deciding issues brought before the adjudicatory bodies, appropriate reasoning is provided for. At the High Court level, it becomes easier and convenient to appreciate such orders and express an opinion on the same. I hope and trust that ITAT, with utmost experience of so many years, must be dealing with cases keeping in view these principles of decision making process.
It is necessary that the departments’ side is also reflected properly before the adjudicatory forums while issues are determined. Adequately trained and knowledgeable officers, lawyers must be engaged to put up view of the departments before the adjudicatory forums. It is equally necessary to provide prompt and proper instructions to the arguing lawyers engaged by the Government and the Departments. At the Government level effective and prompt instructions are required to be provided
to the counsel representing them in the higher Courts.
India is a fast growing economy of the world. The Law Commission of India in its 158th Report had recommended the constitution of Commercial Division in each High Court. In its 253rd Report, the Law Commission recommended for the establishment of the Commercial Courts, the Commercial Division and the Commercial Appellate Divisions in the High Courts for disposal of commercial disputes of specified value. The Parliament enacted a law, namely, the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015. The high value commercial disputes involve complex facts and question of law and the need was felt to provide for an independent mechanism for their early resolution.
Howsoever knowledgeable and trained one may be in the field of law, considering the development globally in the field of trade and commerce, passing of complex law, updated training is a must. Discussion on diverse issues, problems and searching out for a possible solution must be the idea behind arranging a refresher course.
I am confident after undergoing the Refresher Course’ arranged in the Judicial Academy, the participants would certainly get more enriched in appreciating various facets of the issues which would be discussed and deliberated upon during the sessions.
I extend my good wishes to each of the participant.
[Source – Speech Delivered at All India Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Member’s Residential Refresher Course – 2017 held on 16th July, 2017]