ALL INDIA FEDERATION
OF TAX PRACTITIONERS
215, REWA CHAMBERS
31, NEW MARINE LINES
MUMBAI – 400020
August 22, 2019
Hon’ble Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister’s Office
South Block, Raisina Hall
New Delhi- 110011
Sub.: New India vision – Suggestions for speedy disposal of matters and effective administration of justice.
All India Federation of Tax Practitioners (AIFTP) is an Apex body of Tax Practitioners. The main object of the AIFTP is to spread education in matters relating to tax laws, other laws and accountancy. Hon’ble Sir, we make representation from time to time on tax laws and administration. Sir, on the occasion of 72nd Independence Day celebrations, your honour has put forward a new India vision and road map to the Nation. It is the duty and obligation of the every citizen to support the vision of your honour. We desire that in the new India Vision, the role of the judiciary cannot be left behind. As per the newspaper reports, your honour will be addressing the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers on 1-9-2019. We are making an appeal to your honour to consider the following issues to aid in the speedy disposal of the tax matters before various judicial and quasi-judicial forums and the better administration of justice.
The All India Federation of Tax Practitioners made various representations from time to time suggesting that the Hon’ble Supreme Court may constitute e-benches in the premises of various High Courts. The hearing of Special Leave Petitions before the Apex Court can be done by linking the High Courts with the Supreme Court and thereby affording the litigants the facility for arguing matters before the Supreme Court from the respective High Courts. The e-bench of the Supreme Court may take up the matters on a High Court-wise basis, e.g. one day could be for matters of the Bombay High Court, another day for the Madras High Court and so on, in rotation for each High Court on a regular basis. Initially, an option may be given to the parties to hear the matters through an e-Bench or a regular Bench and upon the success of the pilot project, the said system can be adopted with suitable changes after consulting with all the stake holders.
The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has started an e-Court at Mumbai through which the matters of Nagpur are heard by members sitting in Mumbai at the premises of the Mumbai Bench. The experience has been very satisfactory both, as per the tax payers as well as the Department. The e-Bench of Supreme Court could initially be started for the hearing of Special Leave Petitions (SLP) relating to direct and indirect tax matters. As per the concept, the litigants can be given an option to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’. In case, the litigants desire not to be heard by the e-Bench, they may take the option to opt out. The e-courts may be set up in the premises of all the High Courts around the Country. This will save precious time and reduce cost of litigation. In the era of digitalisation, if this suggestion is implemented, tax payers will get access to justice without the strenuous effort of travelling to Delhi.
The Parliament constituted a committee headed by Smt. Jayanti Natarajan as Chairperson for considering the increase in age limit of Judges of High Courts from 62 to 65. The Committee observed as under:-
“Taking into account the justifications given by the secretary, Department of Justice, and the statement of objects and reasons appended to the bill, the committee supports the proposal for increase in the retirement age of judges of the High Courts from sixty two years to sixty five years and to be at par with the retirement age of the judges of the Supreme Court, The Committee also acknowledges that the Bill has been brought forth in pursuance of the recommendation made by the Committee in its earlier reports”
Though the committee made the above recommendation on 7th December 2010, no steps have been taken for the implementation of the same till date. It is desirable that an appropriate decision may be taken at the earliest upon this issue. We are of the considered opinion that an increase in age limit will help to increase disposal of cases due to the greater availability of senior Judges which could result in substantial reduction in pendency of cases.
Article 224A of the Constitution of India enables the appointment of retired judges of High Courts as ad-hoc judges. As the pendency in the various high Courts is increasing, the services of ad-hoc judges may be availed for effective disposal of cases and efficient dispensation of justice. This step shall help in reducing the pendency of matters before various High Courts by increasing the bench strength.
Till now, very few Members of the ITAT as well as other Tribunals have been elevated to the High Courts. This process of selection should be institutionalised which will help in bringing transparency. It is also desired that all the High Courts have a permanent tax bench where a Judicial Member of impeccable integrity could be elevated from the ITAT. Members of the ITAT, due to their specialised knowledge and experience in ‘tax’ and ‘business accounts’, would be able to understand and decide the issues efficaciously. This may also act as an attraction for many young and bright lawyers to join the Tribunals as Members.
The Judiciary is one of the pillars of democracy. There must be a separate allocation of funds for the judiciary in each budget. The procedure for disbursement of funds to the judiciary must be simplified. It is worth considering that Finance Ministry may make it a point to meet the concerned Officials of the judiciary and hold discussions about the funds required for modernisation and allocate the required funds to the Judiciary from time to time.
As per the newspaper report dated 3-8-2019 (Times of India, Saturday), it affirms that more than half of the District Courts in the Country do not have functional washrooms and other amenities. In Mumbai, there is only one special court designated to deal with prosecution matters of Direct taxes as well as other economic offenses. There are more than 10,000 cases pending to be heard. There are matters pending for framing charges since more than 15 years. Unless some remedial measures are taken, entire system may collapse. The need of the hour is to have proper infrastructure for the Judiciary. This is possible only when proper allocation of funds is made for the judiciary.
It has been observed that various High Courts have made several recommendations to the Government of India to look into certain matters and take appropriate measures. However, there is no mechanism to find out whether the issue is brought to the notice of Ministry concerned and what follow up action has been taken. It is therefore, advisable to put up such suggestions on the website of the High Courts or of the concerned Ministry where the progress on each direction can be tracked, scrutinised and appropriate action can be taken. This will bring transparency in the functioning of the Ministry and will also bring accountability.
The Adjudicating Authorities under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, and Prevention of Money laundering Act, 2002 are currently situated at Delhi. Due to this, litigants have to travel to Delhi for adjudication of their matters, be it for a mere adjournment or for a complete hearing. This causes great hardship to the litigants apart from the already existing implications under the statues.
At present there is no Adjudicating Authority in any part of the Country. It is desirable that the Adjudicating Authority is set up in across the Country to provide effective dispute redressal mechanism for litigants located away from the Capital City. Till the time such zones are established, the Adjudicating Authority may be allowed to have camps in different places and may be allowed to have touring benches where the numbers of appeals are substantial in number. This will help the litigants in saving precious time and cost of litigation will come down. It would further help the litigants to get speedy justice.
Sir, the aforesaid suggestions may kindly be examined as we are sure that the implementation of these suggestions shall go a long way in providing effective and efficacious remedy to the litigants across the country.
With kind regards,
For All India Federation of Tax Practitioners
Dr. Ashok Saraf
1. Hon’ble Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Law Minister of India
2. Hon’ble Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister of India
DR. ASHOK SARAF