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Judicial system to manage tax litigation to be launched
May, 02nd 2014

The income tax (I-T) department is all set to launch a centralized repository of all appeals and important judgements in direct tax cases by the end of 2014—a move aimed at helping the department in managing litigation better.

The National Judicial Reference System (NJRS) will help taxmen access all pending appeals and track their status. It will enable tax officers to find judgements by various courts in direct tax cases at the click of a button. It will also help the tax department access the entire litigation history of a taxpayer with the help of the permanent account number (PAN).

In a note to all chief commissioners of income tax dated 29 April, Arun Kumar Jain, member, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), said the project will enable officers to take timely action in appeal matters, aid decision making and improve litigation management in the tax department. The note added that the Web-based system will be available to all income tax officers by November-December 2014.

A consortium led by NSDL E-governance Infrastructure Ltdwas recently awarded the contract to set up this system, according to the note reviewed by Mint.
The database will make available all relevant judgements of the income tax appellate tribunal, high courts and the Supreme Court along with department orders and circulars. It will also mention the PAN number of the assessee, the assessment year, the question of law that is being debated, the department’s stand and other details about the case like the date of filing the appeal and the court in which it’s being heard for facilitating an easy search on the web-based system.

The tax department has been drawing flak from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), public accounts committee and the standing committee of finance for the huge amount of money locked up in tax disputes in various courts.

Some 306,000 appeals were pending before various appellate authorities including commissioner of income tax (appeals), the income tax appellate tribunal, high courts and Supreme Court as of March 2012 involving a tax demand of more than Rs.2.42 trillion, according to a report by CAG presented last year.

The tax department has been taking a number of steps to reduce and streamline the litigation process. These include increasing monetary limits for filing appeals, instructions to field officers to file special leave petitions only in deserving cases and better coordination among various agencies.

“The income tax department has officers all over the country. It is very difficult to ensure that all officers know what is the stand of the department on a particular issue. There have been instances where different stands are taken by the tax department on similar issues in front of the tribunals and courts,” said B.M. Singh, former chairman of CBDT. “NJRS is a welcome step as it will be a centralized system where all tax officials know what the department’s position is on matters of law. But keeping the system up to date will be a challenge given the number of cases in courts now”, he said.

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