1. In the life of any Institution, the jubilees are occasions to sit back and to introspect, to evaluate the achievements and assess the extent to which the objective and purpose with which the Institution was formed, have been realised. This year 2016 presents one such opportunity.

2. This prestigious body, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, is a most wonderful gift to our nation from the erstwhile British rulers. Ironically this gift was received just before the time when our ancestors gave them the call to Quit India. The manner in which this new concept for resolution of income-tax disputes was executed in 1941 speaks most eloquently of the vision, ingenuity, dynamism and enterprise of its founders.

3. It was a person of extraordinary qualities, erudition, judicial acumen and administrative abilities who was the founder President. That was the late Justice M. Monir, the first President of the Tribunal in British India. The inaugural team comprised Shri R. P. Varma and Sri Ramamurti as the Judicial Members and Shri A. L. Saigal, Shri P. C. Malhotra and Shri P. N. S. Aiyer as the Accountant Members. Shri Monir later rose to become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. That speaks volumes about the quality and stature of the founding Members. It all started with 3 Benches with none in the South.

4. Appeal procedure as devised was simple with no lengthy pleadings and the prescribed essential data taken in a tabular form. Requirement was simply for concise grounds of appeal to be stated. No rigid rules were put in place for appearances. The Bench ensured a full, fair and courteous hearing. An optimal mix of law and accounts and business practice in the quasi-judicial verdicts was instituted to resolve the tax disputes. The verdict of the Tribunal flowed in quickly and swiftly. Only abstruse questions of law were left for the advisory opinion of the High Courts. On facts, the order of the Tribunal was taken as final.

5. Titans later manned this prestigious body. A brilliant and extant code of conduct was evolved for its Hon’ble Members. Efficient and convenient rules for conduct of the proceedings were devised. Those rules with periodic changes from time-to-time have enabled the Tribunal to glitter over the years. Not just that. The Tribunal has also been conferred the unique privilege of being labelled as a ‘Model’ or a ‘Mother’ Tribunal when similar bodies had to be structured for other disciplines pertaining to excise and customs, sales tax, service matters. One could justifiably say that with God’s Great grace and with the blessings of innumerable well-wishers each President added to the augmentation, enrichment and lustre of the Tribunal. They stood their ground, retained their independence and lived out with great dignity and respect, immune from any outside influences or pressure. The names of former Presidents Late Justice T. D. Sugla, Justice Ranganathan, Shri Ch. G. Krishnamurti, Shri Rajagopala Rao stand out in the history of the last 40 years.

6. Former President Krishnamurthy had, during one of the Jubilees, compiled figures to show that on an average more than 85% of the disputes came to rest at the level of the Tribunal and of those 15% which went for further consideration to higher courts, in them too in more than 85% of the cases, the verdict of the Tribunal was upheld. No judicial body could aspire for a better show of precision and rectitude. It is perhaps with such glittering figures at hand that another former President Dong Zathang startled some judges when at an inaugural function he non-chalantly observed that in the task of delivering justice in tax matters the Tribunal had rendered the indulgence of the higher courts superfluous and unnecessary. Over the years the Tribunal has come to command widespread respect and confidence in public circles. Both the victor and the vanquished have shown abiding faith in its competence, capability, capacity and impartiality.

7. Consistently, and quite at variance with the tiff in other judicial spheres, the Government of the day openly seeks the kind indulgence of the Chief Justice of India to nominate one of his esteemed brother Judges to chair the Selection Panel for nominating Members to the Tribunal. The opinion of the Chairman of the Selection Panel has overwhelming weight and importance. Any person, be it an Advocate or a Chartered Accountant, or be it a Judicial Officer or a Revenue Officer, can apply for selection provided the rudimentary criteria as fixed for the purpose is fulfilled. The Selection Panel also includes the President of the Tribunal and the Law Secretary. The selections have, in many cases, resulted in many a pearls being picked up as Members who later in their life have decorated the Benches of the High Courts and Supreme Court. Others not so endowed are remembered with great respect and high appreciation. The system of selection is so sound and blemishless that it has rarely witnessed any public complaint. Anyone desiring to be nominated to this august body is given a fair and full chance for qualifying.

8. The work regimen for the Hon’ble Members has always been proficiently conceptualised and imaginatively executed.Hierarchical respect inter se Members’ is paramount and all pervading. The Senior Member presides over the Bench and conducts the proceedings. The mix of Advocate and Chartered Accountant or, for that matter, a Judicial Officer and a Tax Administrator has always facilitated an informed, balanced and comprehensive consideration of the points at issue. Proceedings before the Tribunal have always been free of the formal legal strapping. The technicalities of the Evidence Act are seldom invoked. The endeavour in exceptionably is to reach at the substance of the matter. That is the reason for ‘sulabh’ to be one of the two directing principles of this Tribunal. A business like and swift approach rid of procedural hassles with due promptitude in the resolution of disputes is the endeavour of every Bench, be it anywhere, in the length and breadth of this country. Swift justice or ‘satvar nyaya’ has been the other important part of its logo. Strict adherence to the principles of precedence, consistency and principles of general law and basic accountancy and accounting standards have fetched both adulation and respect to the Tribunal.

9. It is well-known that law destroyed destroys and that law protected protects. One could do no better than cite an incident in the CJI’s court concerning the Tribunal in this regard. The then President Rajagopala Rao was in appeal against the Bombay High Court order approving the transfer of the administrative powers of the President to be exercised thereafter as per the Ministry’s directives through its chosen nominee. Just as the hearing commenced for the interim relief as sought by the President, the ASG made certain remarks against the Tribunal’s functioning and cited them as reasons justifying such action by the Ministry. To this the Hon’ble Judges came down on the learned Counsel as if it were with a ton of bricks. Citing personal appearances by him before the Tribunal while at the Bar as the reason for his intimate familiarity with the Tribunal’s procedure and practice and conduct, and the malady as complained of by the Ministry being totally imaginary and uncalled for, he dismissed the ASG’s complaints. Thereafter the then CJI took just no time in ordering a bar on interference in the administrative affairs of the Tribunal and quashed the impugned notification. Certainly this outcome was the result of the Tribunal’s painstaking and unfailing practice over the years of abiding by its ‘Dharma’ in honestly dispensing justice after providing a full and satisfactory hearing to one and all without any discrimination.

10. Over these years many a litigant have knocked at the doors of the Tribunal. Be it a corporate, businessman, politician, trust, foreign enterprise, Government Body or any other entity, all have left securing justice with their hearts filled and mission fulfilled. All that has been due to the easy procedure and the informed and the courteous disposition of the Hon’ble Members. May God Almighty bless this Institution with a grand future which it richly deserves in its sacred role of dispensing quick and easy justice. May it be saddled with greater responsibilities in answering questions of law at the national level, if not for any other reason, then at least for the sake of promoting uniformity and assuring consistency in the administration of tax laws.

[Source : Article printed in ITAT Platinum Jubilee Celebration souvenir held on 24th & 25th January, 2016 at New Delhi]


Sample analysis showing the result of the review of the orders of the Tribunal by the High Courts during the last 75 years


Number of questions of law/cases referred to High Courts

Number of questions / cases where the High Courts upheld the view of the

Percentage of Col. (3) to Col. (2)





































1. This analysis from 1941-50 to 1991-2000 is based on the cases reported in the Income-Tax Reports (ITRs) and from 2001-10 to 2011-15 is based on the CCH database (maintained by Wolters Kulvers) as representing a sample of the questions of law referred to and decided by the High Courts during the relevant period.

2. If the first two decades (i.e. up to 1951-60), where comparatiely few cases had gone to the High Courts is ignored, thereafter the number of questions of law/cases referred to High Court as well as the percentage of cases where the Tribunal’s view has been upheld, has steadily improved from 60% to 81.85% in the period 2011-15.

3. In so far as the analysis of the judgments of the Supreme Court are concerned, up to the period 1991-2000, the analysis was brough out in the Souvenir published on the occasion of Diamond Jubilee (2001) which is as under:-

“Similar analysis of the judgments of the Supreme Court in Bhargava’s Supreme Court Digest (1982 edition) plus Bhargava’s Yearly Digests of the Years 1983, 1984 and 1985, show that the Supreme Court considered 775 orders of the High Courts in the tax matters during the years 1950 to 1984 respectively; upheld and reversed ‘High Courts’ decisions in 474 and 301 cases. Out of the 301 decisions reversed, 263 cases so reversed, the Supreme Court restored the orders of the Tribunal in 134 cases which gives a percentage of more than 50%. A study of the last decade was conducted from the cases reported to the Income-Tax Reports (ITRs). It showed that during 1991-2000 questions of law were referred to the Supreme Court were 567 and in 384 of the questions so referred, the Tribunal’s view was upheld by the Supreme Court. It gives a percentage of 67.70%. This is exactly 2/3rd “.

4. For the periods 2001-10 and 2011-15, analysis of the judgments of the Supreme Court has been carried out on the basis of CCH database (maintained by Wolters Kulvers). It showed that during 2001-10 questions of law referred to the Supreme Court were 494 and in 329 of such cases, the view of Tribunal was upheld, which gives a percentage of 66.60%. Similarly during 2011-15, questions of law referred to the Supreme Court were 192 and in 132 of such cases, the view of the Tribunal was upheld, which gives a percentage of 68.75%.

[Source : Appendix printed in ITAT Platinum Jubilee Celebration souvenir held on 24th & 25th January, 2016 at New Delhi]


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