The finance ministrys move to curtail the powers of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal on the matter of granting stay orders on appeals beyond 365 days, has drawn flak from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
To override the interpretation of courts, the Finance Bill, 2008, proposes to amend Section 254 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, to clearly say that the total stay order by a Tribunal cannot exceed 365 days even if the delay in disposing of the appeal is not attributable to the assessee.
The move follows a ruling of the Bombay High Court in the case of Narang Overseas (P) Ltd versus ITAT, where it ruled that the Tribunal has the power to extend the 365-day period on good cause being shown and on it being satisfied that the matter could not be heard for reasons not attributable to the taxpayer.
Once the duration of 365 days is over, the assessee will have to make the tax payment. This is a move to recover the demand and is unfair to the taxpayer, ICAI President Ved Jain said. The proposed amendment will come into effect from October 1, 2008.
As experts who represent tax payers in these Tribunals, we feel that this provision is inequitable. There are cases where stay has been granted, but the hearing has not taken place not because of assessees but due to some other reasons, Jain added.
The Tribunal is an authority created under law and grants stay not because the assessee is favorable to him, but because there are facts that deserve consideration for a stay order. Therefore, Tribunals should be allowed to grant stay for a period according to the need of the case, Jain said.