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ITAT top officers jump
May, 10th 2010

Close on the heels of the voluntary retirements of a dozen officers two months ago, another set of officers from the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), the finance ministrys arm for collecting direct taxes, have put in their papers. Many of the officers, it is learnt, are likely to take up more lucrative posts with the private sector, sooner or later.

The erosion of IRS rank officers is paralleled by a number of high-level exits from the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), a quasi judicial body that decides on direct tax disputes, administered by the law ministry. Three members of the rank of additional secretary have resigned in a span of six weeks.

Though these officers do not admit that they are leaving the service to join the private sector, sources close to them said many of them are set to take up lucrative posts with corporate majors, including the Indian arms of multinational companies.

Their predecessors who have prematurely left the service are now consultants to companies or big accounting firms. Those who have put in their papers now are also likely to tread the same path. Acting as consultants is the most commonly-resorted practice for veering around the governments rule that bars civil servants from taking up jobs for up to a year after resigning.

Leading the pack now is AK Bal, currently commissioner, income-tax department, Surat. Mr Bal, a 1983 batch IRS officer with over 10 years to go before retirement, had an illustrious tenure with the IRS, spanning over 25 years. Mr Bal had also served two stints on deputation, first as special director, Enforcement Directorate and later as deputy chairman, Bombay Port Trust (BPT).

While at ED Mumbai, he presided over the transition of FERA into FEMA. The transition, which also featured a sunset clause, required registration of over 25,000 cases in a single year. BPT saw a turnaround during the time Mr Bal was serving as the deputy chairman there.

In the income-tax department, he was instrumental in unravelling the infamous bogus sale and lease back deals, a dubious accounting jugglery for claiming depreciation on non-existing assets.

When asked about the reason for his exit, Mr Bal said: Due to personal reasons. But he added that the IRS is a prestigious service and that he had enjoyed his tenure. It is learnt that atleast half a dozen companies are currently wooing him. Nishi Nair, commissioner, income-tax, too, has resigned. Ms Nair is reportedly taking up an overseas project with the private sector.

A 2004 batch IRS officer, Saraswati Padmanabhan, currently a member of the investigation wing of the department, has put in her papers too. She is planning to join a non-government organisation. Her resignation has stirred a controversy as she has put in her papers immediately after sending a tax notice to a Hollywood megastar. However, both Ms Padmanabhan and her seniors in the department, have denied any link with her notice to the star and her resignation.

SSN Moorthy, chairman, CBDT, told ET: We cannot stop officers from leaving the department. It is their choice. As the erosion of IRS continues, the reports of resignations are coming in from ITAT, too. DR Shah, member ITAT, who has seven more years to go, resigned. He reasoned: I want to live with my family. The ITAT rules dont allow that.

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