Reetu | Nov 9, 2023 |
Delhi HC Disposes PIL of Tax Practitioners in matter of working of Income Tax Faceless Assessments
We have heard Ms. Prem Lata Bansal, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner and Mr. Prashant Meharchandani, learned Senior Standing Counsel, for the respondent No.2/Central Board of Direct Taxes (in short “CBDT”), the contesting party, and perused the documents including the additional affidavit filed on behalf of CBDT in terms of order dated 14.09.2022 and 27.01.2023.
The present PIL has been pending since the year 2013 and various orders and directions were being passed by this Court from time to time. We need not dilate on those. What is relevant to consider today is the additional affidavit dated 09.10.2023 filed on behalf of the CBDT.
According to the additional affidavit, the CBDT has provided the manner in which, in the past as also in the future, pending appeals are to be dealt with and disposed of expeditiously.
After having perused the aforesaid additional affidavit and having heard Mr. Prashant Meharchandani, learned Senior Standing Counsel for CBDT, we are satisfied that the prayers as sought by the petitioner have been suitably addressed by the CBDT. Also, upon a perusal and consideration of the aforesaid road map including the Central Action Plan for the Financial Year 2022-23, it appears that the CBDT has formulated a real time and a practical approach to dispose of the large number of appeals pending before various Commissioner (Appeals).
So far as the prayers in clause (a) and clause (c) of the petition are concerned the same appear to be satisfied in terms of the Litigation Management Policy framed under the yearly Central Action Plan. In fact, the said policy also addresses the specific grievances raised by the petitioner.
So far as the prayer in clause (b) is concerned, the CBDT has submitted that more than 570 Commissioners (Appeals) would be needed to deal with the pending appeals as in the year 2014. It appears that as against the sanctioned strength 349 Commissioner (Appeals), only 229 Commissioners form the working strength as on July 2023.
It also appears that the CBDT has made a request to the concerned authorities to increase the working strength by way of promotions or direct in-take, as the case may be. That apart, it also becomes clear that the Finance Act, 2023, has introduced a concept where joint Commissioner/Additional Commissioners (Appeals) will decide the First Appeals below the threshold of Rs. 10 lakhs. The department claims to have sanctioned 100 such posts which according to it, will substantially reduce the pendency of appeals. In that, the greater percentage of the pending appeals belongs to this bracket/category.
That apart, the concept of Faceless Appeals introduced since September 2020 by the department also appear to have mitigated the issue of disposal of pending appeals.
We are satisfied that so far as increasing the sanctioned strength or the filing up of vacant posts of the Commissioner (Appeals) is concerned, the CBDT may not have any role to play. However, the Union of India, which is respondent no.1 in the present petition, may take appropriate measures and decision in that regard, inasmuch as filling up of all the present posts lying vacant would greatly assist in disposals of the pending appeals. The Union of India may also consider increasing the sanctioned strength of Commissioner (Appeals) substantially at least to the extent of 570 of such posts, to achieve the aims and objects of the Central Action Plan which is formulated every year.
Ms. Prem Lata Bansal learned Senior Counsel, submitted the following suggestions for consideration of this Court:-
a. Working/Sanctioned Strength of the Commissioner (Appeals) should be increased substantially.
b. Since the assessees have to mandatorily deposit 20% of the demand as pre-deposit for hearing of the appeal, further demands should not be raised till the appeal is decided.
c. Since, the assessees are major stake holders, their interests should be taken care of.
We have, while considering the aforesaid issues, noted that the road map drawn up by the CBDT in the additional affidavit, adequately addresses the concerns raised by Ms. Bansal, learned Senior Counsel and as such do not feel it necessary to pass any further directions. Suffice it to say that the CBDT shall scrupulously implement the aforesaid road map and the Union of India shall also address in all
earnest and as soon as may be, the directions contained above.
In view thereof, we are of the considered opinion that nothing further remains for adjudication in the present PIL and the same is disposed of accordingly.
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