It is a perfect case of justice delayed at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in Nagpur. Around 300 tax assessees are waiting for their cases to be taken up as the tribunal waits for more to pile up.
The ITAT is a body under the ministry of law where a tax-payer can appeal against an order passed by the income tax department. However, the one in Nagpur which caters to entire Vidarbha region does not have a bench of judges for more than eight months.
The authorities say one would be in place when 1,000 cases accumulate, as it will be feasible to appoint a bench only when a sizeable number of cases are there.
This has put the assessees who have moved the tribunal in a spot . For them it appears to be an unending wait till the glass is full to the brim.
Though the cases are expected to be fast disposed off, once the bench is established, it has left many a tax-payer high and dry, say chartered accountants and tax practitioners of city.
One approaches the ITAT over a question of law especially when the assessee believes that the tax demand is unjustly high or should not have been generated at all. This follows after the appeal is rejected by the commissioner appeals who is a part of I-T department itself.
"Many tax-payers have faith in the ITAT as it is an independent body. But, at present the tax-payers, who have filed a plea to get a stay on the tax recovery demand, cannot avail the legal recourse," said Rajeev Damani a chartered accountant.
Kailash Jogani, a member of the income tax department's regional advisory council, said that he had taken up the issue in a recent meeting of the body. There are several assessees who are not in a position to pay the dues specified in the demand order, but are under pressure from the taxmen. "Had the legal recourse been available, such persons may have got a reprieve by securing a stay order. The cases cannot be shifted to other benches too as the question of area of jurisdiction will come into play," he said.
Chartered Accountant Jayant Ranade said, "If the ITAT feels that the number of pending cases is too less then it should wind up the Nagpur bench altogether. However, for that the present cases should be dispossed off at the earlier so that the present litigants do not have to keep waiting."
At the same time a section of other chartered accountants said, "The lack of a bench is not much of an issue because as soon as one is appointed the cases will be disposed off within a fortnight or so. Till then the assessees can also wait.