CA Srivatsan Ranganathan
1. Contempt of court petition can be filed for states who have got a writ to their favour. What is the penalty? Imprisonment or fine? Who will be imprisoned? Some scapegoat bureaucrat or say chairman of CBDT. The professional community would have never wanted this definitely all they want is respectable ears for their genuine request. In the end the judicial process going thus the need or the want?
2. Government/CBDT would have filed a SLP and if the same was never heard or heard or dismissed say nearer to 31/10/15 again would have been a Phyrric victory. That much of genuine cases where proper return/audit/tax collection would have been possible all have would have gone down the drain. Suppose the petition was heard before and extension granted then scenario is one of uncertainty until such extension. The 24 hour hiatus of issuance of extension between last evening to now, what events changed, nothing. But the uncertainty did definitely keep every law abiding and return filing client/professional in tenterhooks. Was it worth the uncertainty Mr. FM?
3. The fact of CBDT thinking that if the P&H high court/Gujarat high court alone have granted the writ then we will issue the circular only for those two states. Was it not myopic of a legislation which spreads to all over India? Will it not invite discrimination under violation of fundamental rights? Why did the CBDT or the FM not think of this or come clean explaining the rationale why is it they could not extend the timeline but simply issue press notes? Is this worthy of transparency of the tax body or of the FM who speaks of certainty and transparency of tax regime?
4. If the intent of the FM or CBDT was not to issue the extension until closure of banking hours to milk as many tax cows as possible, then it is understood from the Govt.’s perspective. For a minute step aside and think if that many filings were wrong or did not collect the full taxes? Does the CBDT has the wherewithal to pick and scrutinize every such filing done on the 11th hour?
5. There are sections like 200A where there is also a fee for belated filing for TDS returns. Judiciary has held the constitutionality of the same and the existence of the section citing belated tax returns cause extra manpower and efforts from the tax department’s dimension thus are valid? What would happen if all the returns filed on the 11th hour were all wrong or had corrections on it in some form or other? Do they not involve that much extra efforts or manpower requirements?
6. The Professional community also have a reason to be blamed. Year on year the extensions have been done so once bitten twice shy. Why not the CBDT or the technical wing of CBDT come up with a cut off date for the forms and issue them and stick on the problems and support them with enough staffs and manpower? They open special counters for return filing? Why not so many call center/helpdesks which genuinely pay heed to the technical problems. In the end if the professional community has expressed a genuine difficulty, then at least one need not keep windows open until 31.10.15 but at least accommodate the mutual need.
7. What CBDT or the technical division is not sure of why would they need to release it? Example was the tax audit form. On 24.09.2015 if they had to amend the same, what is the onus and responsibility the Govt. or the machinery takes on its actions? Left to the lurch of the court/professionals when asked? Where is the action for this from the CBDT? In the end it cannot be the poor babu/bureaucrat/scapegoat here as well. Who is the one who authorized the release of the version? Make it public and bring in trust into the system? Then professional community will offer a bigger holding hand to make it working.
8. It is not the Govt. of India who collects the taxes. It is the professional community who make their clients deliver year on year on the audits/reports/tax money thereby enriching the Govt./CBDT. They legislate and administer that’s all. Just as the GDP of the country impinges on the action of every you and me, the entire body/officers/the departments if they are to run successfully; it needs the work of the businessmen/taxpayers/professionals supporting it. For a minute stop the writs and think what will happen if no tax payer or only a miniscule of the entire business or tax payer or professional community file using the portals issue reports/do return filings? Or what will happen if all these people boycott the whole system making a mockery of the systems/legislation/process? Do you have a solution to tackle the mass boycott Mr. FM?
9. It is heartening that the professional community or the tax payers/filers have never thought of a boycott thus. Non-cooperation can come in different forms. This year the CBDT has seen it in the form of writs, it is not far when the professional/filers come up and boycott the process and hold the CBDT or the ministry to ransom. If the truckers do this country comes to a standstill everyone gets into a talk/resolution mode? If FII’s do this by pulling out money, then justice AP Shah is appointed to bring it to a rest. Was something thus done for our own people/professionals? Why because they are forbearing/kind and courteous to not to hold the country or the bureaucrats to ransom or because they do not join hands? What would have happened if all the bodies who all had filed the writs joined and filed a writ in the Supreme court. Definitely the apex court would have heard it as a PIL more than a simple writ. Would the CBDT or the FM woken up to a SLP then?
The idea is not to win laurels by penning this but if the writing is on the wall for people as an eye opener that “yes I would have done the same thing as on the black and white here” , then time Mr. FM/CBDT to wake up to the voices of people.
(Author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)