The Tribunal’s observation in the impugned order made in the course of the rectification application i.e. that an order, allowing an application for early hearing, is merely administrative, is clearly incorrect. In this regard, the Tribunal’s view in Olympia Paper & Stationery Stores (Supra) is as follows:-
“9. It consequently follows from the above discussion that a Bench of the Appellant Tribunal should pass judicial orders on any application filed before it directly or through a ministerial staff for consideration be it for
(a) early hearing;
(b) adjourning or advancing hearing;
(c) Condoning delay in presenting appeals or applications;
(d) stay of disputed demands, during pendency of appeals;
(e) staying further proceedings before the tax authorities; or
(f) any other matter requiring interference of this Appellant Tribunal in respect of dispensation and administration of justice in any appeal, application or in any matter pending or arising before the Appellant Tribunal.
10. The judicial orders, by the concerned Bench of the Appellate Tribunal and not administrative orders, have to be passed for expeditious and out of turn hearing of any appeal or application. In this case, no judicial order is passed by ‘A’ Bench of the Tribunal directing or ordering the Registry to post this appeal for expeditious and/or out of turn on priority basis.
11. It is one of the most time-honoured and cardinal rule of administration of justice that a party (adversary) should be heard by any Court or Tribunal in the manner he has approached the Court/Tribunal and that he should never be preferred or selected over other litigants/adversaries from the long pending queue unless and until, we repeat, unless and until there are strong compelling and justifiable reasons for bestowing a preferential treatment to a party for hearing him on priority and out of turn basis. Breach of this salutary principle will not only cause prejudice to other litigants who are waiting in the long queue but even cause injustice to them and the Court/Tribunal may be accused of arbitrariness for preferring one litigant over the others from the long queue of pending appeals/ applications.
12. There are more than 21,000 appeals, cross-appeals and applications pending before the Madras Benches of the Appellate Tribunal involving crores of rupees of Govt. revenue. This appellant therefore cannot be favoured and chosen and preferred for an out of turn and priority hearing of its appeal on the specious plea that the tax authorities are pressurising for payment of Govt. dues blocked in the pending appeal and therefore he should be preferred over others and be heard expeditiously on priority and out of turn basis. We cannot choose and pick out this appellant from the long queue of appeals and applications and hear him expeditiously. We will be acting arbitrarily and doing injustice to other appellants/ applicants waiting patiently in the long queue for their turn to be heard for justice.”
Consequently, the ITAT’s opinion on this aspect is clearly erroneous and is accordingly set aside.