The Central Administration Tribunal (CAT) has quashed the appointment of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) member Parvinder Sohi Behuria, seven months after she took charge.
This is for the first time that a serving member’s appointment has been declared invalid on the grounds that the vacancy did not exist when the orders were issued. The 1977 batch Indian Revenue Service officer is handling the charge of revenue at the administrative body for collecting income tax.
The appointment was challenged by a Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Dileep Shivpuri, also in the fray for the post. In his petition, he alleged finance secretary R S Gujral, who was handling the revenue portfolio at that time, had “unduly favoured” Behuria.
He alleged she didn’t meet the criteria of one year of regular service in the post of chief commissioner or its equivalent, and had less than one year’s residual service on the date of occurrence of vacancy.
Behuria was appointed member in place of S S Rana, who retired on March 31. The CAT has ruled that since no vacancy existed on that day, no selection or appointment could have been made against the post before April 1. The government will now have to make a fresh selection for the post.
The CAT, however, did not accept the objection raised by the petitioner on relaxing criteria regarding working on an equivalent post outside the cadre. Before her appointment as CBDT member, Behuria was secretary at the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) in the rank of chief commissioner.
“Since others also had been given such relaxation in similar circumstances in the post, we would feel that this constitutes a category in itself,” it said.
It also refused to get into comparative evaluation of the merits of Shivpuri’s application for the post and allegations of “undue favour” being made against him by Gujral.
Behuria, a doctorate in business administration, is married to heavy industries secretary, Sutanu Behuria,. She was appointed PESB secretary on January 1, 2008. She was part of the core team that implemented the Income Tax Department’s Permanent Account Number for tax payers.
At CBDT, she is handling all matters relating to revenue budget, including the assigning of budgetary targets among chief commissioners throughout the country, recovery of taxes, write-offs of income tax demands, all matters relating to widening of tax base, and general coordination of the work.