Priyanka Kumari | Dec 2, 2023 |
HC directs government to fill up vacant posts of Income Tax Commissioner (Appeals)
The Delhi High Court, in the matter of ALL INDIA FEDERATION OF TAX PRACTIONERS Vs. UOI AND ANR, has issued an order directing the government to fill up vacant posts of Income Tax Commissioner (Appeals).
Essential points of the Judgment:
The present petition has been filed under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India, in the nature of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking following prayers:-
“a. To formulate a policy and issue necessary directions to Commissioners (Appeals) to take steps for expeditious disposal of appeals or within the time limit envisaged by Section 250(6A) of the Income Tax Act 1961.
b. To increase the number of Commissioners (Appeals) and also provide such other infrastructural support as is required by the Commissioners (Appeals) for disposal of appeals expeditiously.
c. To make clear guidelines for the Commissioner Appeals to dispose of the appeals in a chronological manner and also for passing orders within 10 days after conclusion of hearing or within a reasonable period.”
Facts as culled out from the petition filed by the petitioner are as follows:
“2A. That the source of knowledge of the facts stated in the Writ Petition is the information provided by the members of the Petitioner and also the information gathered under the Right to information Act from the offices of the Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) in Delhi and from Respondent No. 2 herein i.e. the Central Board of Direct Taxes. On the basis of information, it is an undoubted position that the appeals are decided by Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) after long delays, which is causing harassment and cost to the assesses.
2B. That the delay in disposal of appeals by the Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeal) is adversely affecting large number of assesses and it is difficult for all of them to approach this Hon’ble Court. Therefore, this Writ Petition is being filed by the petitioner.
2C. That the present Petition is being filed in the interest of public at large and the assesses under the Income Tax Act and the Tax Practitioners in particular and accordingly, the relief sought in the petition will be in the interest of above persons and no other person / body / Institution is likely to be affected by the orders sought in the writ petition. The petitioner has impleaded Ministry of Finance and Central Board of Direct Taxes as Respondents as the Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) are working under their control and direction.
2D. That the Petitioner, All India Federation of Tax Practitioners is one of the oldest and the largest Association of Tax Practitioners in the country. At present it is having more than 5,400 individual tax professionals / Practitioners as its members apart from membership of 1 19 Tax Bar Associations. Accordingly, the Petitioner is representing a large number of Tax Professionals. It is having its central office at 215, Rewa Chambers, 31, New Marine Lines, Mumbai-400020 and also zonal offices at number of other places, including at Delhi. It is registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
3. That the Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) are working as per the directions of Respondent No. 2. In this regard every year an Action Plan is given by Respondent No. 2 to the Commissioners (Appeals) for disposal of appeals. The Respondents are well aware of the provisions of Section 250(6A) to the Income Tax Act and also about pendency of appeals. In reply to the query raised through one of the member of the petitioner, the Respondent No. 2 has also given information in this regard vide its letter dated 14.12.2012, a copy of which is also enclosed here with this Petition. The Action Plan being issued by the Respondent No. 2 is in disregard to the provisions of Section 250(64) of the Act.”
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.
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 in Para 10 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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