The ministry of law and justice has banned retired members of Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), a quasi judicial body on tax matters, from appearing before the tribunal, post-retirement.
Senior income-tax officials and tax professionals welcomed the move, as it puts an end to a practice that often creates embarrassing situations during the hearing of tax cases. Quite often, lawyers and chartered accountants had to put up with situations in which a member who presided over the hearing of a case, reappears at the same forum after retirement to defend one of the parties in the same case.
The law ministry has also banned presidents and senior vice-presidents of ITAT, from appearing before the Tribunal. YP Trivedi, senior tax lawyer and member of Parliament welcomed the ministry's decision of banning such practices. "Creation of such protocol would lead to better judicial discipline and enhancement of the prestige of the institution of ITAT," he said.
The issue first came up when members of the Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) were banned from practising before CESTAT, after retirement, by a provision introduced in the Customs and Excise Act, in the 2007 Budget.
Critics of the proposal questioned the practice of ITAT members appearing before the Tribunal after retirement. Four retired CESTAT members had challenged the provision in the Customs and Excise Act before the Delhi High Court.
While dismissing the petition, the court, in its April 2009 order, had observed that the "...court's authority is based on public perception especially that of the litigants appearing before it, that the process of administration of justice is far removed, from even the remotest possibility of bias creeping into the decision making process."
Senior income-tax officials said the practice of officers belonging to the elite Indian Revenue Service cadre appearing before the Tribunal after retirement too, should be banned. There were instances where the officer who presided over the assessment of tax payer, appeared, after his retirement, on behalf of the tax payer.
YP Trivedi, senior tax lawyer and member of Parliament welcomed the ministrys decision of banning such practices. "Creation of such protocol would lead to better judicial discipline and enhancement of the prestige of the institution of ITAT."
"This change will curb the prevailing tendency of some individuals becoming members in the Tribunal with a view to resign later and take the advantage of the context made earlier, while on the bench," says Dinesh Vyas, senior tax counsel.
But K Shivram, vice president of ITAT Bar Association said: "The experience and knowledge of a judge is an asset to the nation's delivery system...it is important to retain knowledge and experience of the judiciary to deliver speedy justice."
According to Mr Shivaram, the age limit of the Supreme Court and High Court judges should be raised to 68 years and 65 years, from 65 years and 62 years, respectively.