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Row over I-T cadre restructuring
August, 12th 2013

The cadre restructuring of the income tax (I-T) department, aimed at widening and deepening the tax base and increasing the efficiency of the I-T department, is being used by promotees to grab IRS posts, thus leading to a huge void in the ground level force, allege direct recruit Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers.

The cadre restructuring of the I-T department, recently approved by the government, created an additional 1,349 posts (620 in reserved category and 563 in general category, arising because of promotions to higher grade) at the level of assistant commissioner of income tax (ACI-T).

These additional posts are to be filled up in a phased manner over five years by promotion and by direct recruitment in equal proportion, according to the IRS rules. Direct recruit IRS officers, however, said that Group B income tax officers (I-TOs) enjoying the support of promoted IRS officers are now demanding that all 1,349 posts be filled by en masse promotion of I-TOs to ACI-T grade in one go by undertaking yet another relaxation in IRS rules as was done in 2001.

The relaxation in 2001 was followed by many litigations and the matter is still pending before the Supreme Court. An apex court ruling of 1974 put an end to all litigation in this regard by laying down the principle of roster system for direct recruitment and promotion in the ratio of 1:1 and abolishing the weightage rule.

However, this 1:1 ratio - 50% vacancies in ACI-T grade to be filled by direct recruitment based on civil services examination merit list and the remaining 50% by promotion of I-TOs on selection basis - was once violated during the 2001 cadre restructuring of the department when 993 I-TOs were given promotion as assistant commissioners and were conferred IRS to fill the newly created and vacant ACI-T posts.

This one-time relaxation in IRS rules affected the seniority of direct recruit officers vis-a-vis promotee officers since the 2002 batch, leading to heartburn and litigations in various courts by the direct recruits and the case is still pending in the Supreme Court.Direct recruit officers said the situation in the income tax department has not changed much since 1986 when in a letter addressed to the chairman of the committee on subordinate legislation, the then Union minister of finance stated "..... I am afraid, however, there is hardly any scope for the government to take any significant action in the matter as the alleged grievances of the promotee officers of the income tax department are unreal and imaginary. In the past, the prospects, position and power enjoyed by the promotees happened to be better only because of a systematic and persistent violation of Rules".

What do direct recruit IRS officers have to say?

* Cadre Restructuring-2013 is aimed at creating more staff and reversing the inverse-pyramidal structure created in the income tax department as a result of cadre restructuring in 2001.

* En masse promotion of I-TOs as ACI-Ts would leave huge vacancies at inspector and tax assistant level, which are the cutting edge work force for the department. The en masse promotions from I-TO to ACI-T will call for promotions of inspectors, who do not have enough experience in the field, as I-TOs thereby compromising the standard of work in the department.

* Yet another one time relaxation will not only lead to a fresh bout of litigations but would also defy the cadre restructuring aimed at creating large number of vacancies at inspector level and create ample workforce for increased workload of I-T department. Government's direct tax collections will fall short only if there is shortage in the workforce but not in the officer cadre.

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