A wake-up call for the ITAT administration
– Challenges due to acute shortage of Deputy Registrars,
Assistant Registrars and other staff
The ITAT was not only the first Tribunal to be set up in this country but it has, over the years, proved itself true to its object of providing fair and speedy justice in the field of direct tax litigation. It is therefore a cause of concern that recently, issues that expose the underlying administrative apathy have come to light that are affecting the smooth and efficient functioning of the Tribunal. The orders of the ITAT have great financial implications on both the Government as well as common man and hence its smooth functioning is essential for the purposes of both speedy justice and revenue collection.
It is also alarming to note that there are 30 vacant posts of Assistant Registrars as of to day. Even among the vacant posts, some have been vacant since as long as i.e. from the year 2003-04. Various proposals and reminders for direct recruitment for Assistant Registrars had been sent to the Ministry of Law & Justice from time-to-time . However, there has been no action upon the same and there have been no direct recruitments to the post of Assistant Registrars since the year 2001.
There are seven sanctioned posts of the Deputy Registrars in the ITAT and all the said posts have been vacant for an inordinate period of time. It has also been noticed that the DPC for the post of Deputy Registrars of the ITAT have not been convened for a period exceeding more than 15 years. The last DPC for the post of Deputy Registrars conducted was in 2003. No subsequent DPC has been conducted. This alarming state of events is further exacerbated by the fact that the Hon’ble Central Administrative Tribunal, Allahabad Bench vide order No. 372/2012 dt. 27-3-2012 had directed the Union of India through the Secretary, Department of Legal affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice as well as the President of the ITAT to complete the process of filling up the post of Deputy Registrars as well as of the Registrars within a period of four months from 30/03/2012 which was the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order.
Even though the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Manoj Kashyap & Ors v. UOI (W.P.(C) 13/2015 & W.P.(C) 2620/2015 dt. 30-5-2016) had directed that as promotions had not taken place in accordance with law since 2003, regular DPC was to be convened within a period of six months from the date of receipt of a copy of the said order. However, considering that no DPC for appointment of Deputy Registrars has been conducted, the said direction of the Delhi High Court has not been followed.
It is also noteworthy that the Government of India has provided instructions to hold DPC on annual basis following the model calendar (OM No. 22011/9/98-Estt(D) dated 8-9-1998) read with OM No. 22011/4/2013-Estt(D) dt. 28-1-2015). The Government of India has also subsequently issued further instructions by OM No. 2201/1/2011-Estt(D) dated 27/10/2016 for timely and advance action in convening of the DPC meeting in terms of the model calendar.
It is a cause of concern that despite the instructions of the Central Government, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court and the Central Administrative Tribunal, there has been no DPC conducted. The inaction of the concerned officials is a highly contemptuous act and shows that our bureaucracy is unwilling to take action unless the institution comes to a grinding halt. As of today the existing Assistant Registrars are reeling under the burden of an excess workload that is the legacy of having 30 vacancies for the post of Assistant Registrars and no Deputy Registrars. The lack of promotions also directly affects the morale of the staff and affects their functioning. Apathy of such magnitude is not expected in the functioning of a Tribunal of national importance that decides matters directly related to the coffers of the Government.
We have been given to understand that there are 72 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 188 and for MTS (Multi-Tasking Non-technical) staff. There are 104 vacancies as against a sanctioned strength of MTS of 298.
Given the shortage of staff, credit must be given to the existing staff that has ensured that the functioning of the ITAT remains smooth and the lack of manpower is not starkly visible. However, it would be harmful for both the efficient functioning of the ITAT as well as the morale of the staff if the said appointments are not made at the earliest and the extra burden on the existing staff is not rationalised.
Viewed in the same lens as the delay in filling up the vacancies for the post of President of ITAT, posts of the Vice-Presidents for the ITAT, Hon’ble Members of the ITAT and the Members of the Authority for advance ruling, it reflects upon a reactionary bureaucracy as opposed to a proactive one.
It is desired that professional bodies and various Bar Associations take efforts to bring the said inefficiencies to the notice of the present-day Government. The present Government has projected itself as positive and proactive in the field of administration. It is hoped that the Government shall undo the legacy of apathy inherited by it
from the past administrations and usher in a new era of efficiency in the functioning of the ITAT.
Dr. K. Shivaram