Celebrating 80th Foundation Day
80 Select Judgements
Income Tax Appellate Tribunal completes its glorious 80 years of service to the nation. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, though is a creation of statuary provisions of Income tax Act, 1961, from section 253 to 256, the supervising ministry is Ministry of Law and Justice. This arrangement has been provided with great insight; the Ministry of Finance which enforces the Income tax Act, 1961 is one of the litigant before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal through the department of Income Tax. If the supervision is left to the Ministry of Finance, then it would set a bad precedent and interference in the judicial work cannot be avoided and the assessees would lose the trust which they reposed in the judicial body from last 80 years. The importance of the independence of judicial body like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal can be gauged with the fact that several executive feats, through the bureaucracy, were made in the past to dilute the independence of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal by tinkering with administrative powers of the President of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. These disputes landed up before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. In the case of ITAT v. V.K. Aggarwal (1999) 235 ITR 175 (SC) Apex Court held that Tribunal is a court. Again, in the case of Ajay Gandhi v. B. Singh (2004) 265 ITR 451 (SC) observed that “keeping in view the fact that the independence of the Tribunal is essential, for maintaining its independence any power which may be conferred upon the executive authority must be proved to be in the interest of imparting justice.”
While working on this project, myself and my colleagues , who are part of the research team, came across around 532 judgements delivered by the Special Benches of the Income tax Appellate Tribunal since inception. In the year 2020 there are no Special Benches as the judicial proceedings were affected due to COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, on an average, has been delivering 6 to 7 Special Bench judgements every year. There are other statistics which we are providing at page 218 of this journal which shows that the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has achieved its moto of delivering Impartial, Easy and Speedy Justice.
The provisions of section 255(3) provide that the President may, for the disposal of any particular case, constitute a Special Bench consisting of three or more members, one of whom shall necessarily be judicial member and one an accountant member. These provisions fell for consideration before the Apex Court in the case of ITAT v. DCIT (1996) 218 ITR 275 (SC). The Apex Court explained the scope of the provisions of sub- sections (1) and (3) of section 255 of the Income tax Act, 1961. The powers conferred on the President to constitute Benches of the Tribunal are administrative powers. The sub-section (3) empowers the President for disposal of any particular case to constitute a Special Bench. The functions, entrusted under sub-section (1) and (3) of section 255 to the President of the Tribunal, are obviously administrative functions. They have nothing to do with exercise of any judicial power. As per sub-section (5) the Tribunal can regulate its own procedure and the procedure of the Benches and for that purpose can frame appropriate regulations. The Bench of the Tribunal, hearing the matter is of course a judicial function, but so far as the President’s power under sub-section (1)r/w sub-section (3) of section 255 to constitute Benches or for that matter Special Benches is concerned, the said power is an administrative power. It is obvious that the President, in this connection, may even act suo moto, if it is brought to his notice that any important point is pending for decision in a matter which requires to be decided by a larger Bench.
This Special Issue of the AIFTP-Journal is brought out with the help of the research team and the editorial team. I thank all my team members for supporting me in putting together this issue. I am especially grateful to my editorial team, which consists of very senior professionals, for providing me guidance and doing the tedious job editing. My special thanks to Journal Committee and its convenor Advocate Neelam Jadhav for coordinating and providing the Subject Index. I am thankful to Dr. K. Shivaram, Senior Advocate, doing the hand holding and helping me in overcoming the road blocks I had hit in the process of bringing out the publication. I am grateful to Lordship Justice P.P. Bhatt, President for accepting our request to release this publication during the inaugural session of the 80th Foundation Day celebration.