delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A PIL was filed under Articles 226 and 227 seeking to formulate a policy and issue necessary directions to Commissioners (Appeals) to take steps for expeditious disposal of appeals or within the time limit envisaged by Section 250(6A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. A division bench of Satish Chandra Sharma, CJ., and Tushar Rao Gedela, J., refuses interference in the petition considering the road map drawn up by the CBDT that adequately addresses the concerns raised in the PIL.

The Petitioner, All India Federation of Tax Practitioners is one of the oldest and the largest Association of Tax Practitioners in the country. At present it has more than 5,400 individual tax professionals / Practitioners as members apart from membership of 1 19 Tax Bar Associations. The present PIL seeks to increase the number of Commissioners (Appeals) and also provide such other infrastructural support as is required by the Commissioners (Appeals) for the disposal of appeals expeditiously. It further seeks to make clear guidelines for the Commissioner Appeals to dispose of the appeals in a chronological manner and for passing orders within 10-days after the conclusion of the hearing or within a reasonable period. As per the information received under the Right to information Act from the offices of the Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) in Delhi and from Respondent 2 herein i.e. the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the appeals are decided by Commissioners of Income Tax (Appeals) after long delays, which is causing harassment and cost to the assesses.

As per an additional affidavit, the CBDT has provided the way, in the past and future, pending appeals are to be dealt with and disposed of expeditiously. The relevant paragraphs of the said additional affidavit show the road map as to how the department has to dispose of pending appeals. After having perused the additional affidavit, the prayers as sought by the petitioner have been suitably addressed by the CBDT. Also, upon a perusal and consideration of the road map including the Central Action Plan for the Financial Year 2022-23, it appears that the CBDT has formulated a real-time and practical approach to dispose of the large number of appeals pending before various Commissioner (Appeals).

The Court further noted that the CBDT has requested the authorities concerned to increase the working strength by way of promotions or direct in-take. That apart, it also becomes clear that the Finance Act, 2023, has introduced a concept where joint Commissioner/Additional Commissioners (Appeals) will decide the First Appeals below the threshold of Rs. 10 lakhs. The department claims to have sanctioned 100 such posts which according to it, will substantially reduce the pendency of appeals. In that, the greater percentage of the pending appeals belongs to this bracket/category. The concept of Faceless Appeals introduced since September 2020 by the department also appears to have mitigated the issue of disposal of pending appeals.

The Court observed that so far as increasing the sanctioned strength or the filing up of vacant posts of the Commissioner (Appeals) is concerned, the CBDT may not have any role to play. However, the Union of India, which is respondent 1 in the present petition, may take appropriate measures and decisions in that regard, since filling up all the present posts lying vacant would greatly assist in the disposal of the pending appeals. The Union of India may also consider increasing the sanctioned strength of Commissioner (Appeals) substantially at least to the extent of 570 of such posts, to achieve the aims and objectives of the Central Action Plan which is formulated every year.

The Court concluded that the road map drawn up by the CBDT in the additional affidavit adequately addressed the concerns and as such the Court does not feel it necessary to pass any further directions.

[All India Federation of Tax Practitioners v UOI, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 7105, decided on 06-11-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Prem Lata Bansal, Senior Advocate with Mr. Shivang Bansal & Mr. Anunav Kumar, Advocates for petitioner

Mr. Prashant Meharchandani, Senior Standing Counsel with Mr. Akshat Singh, Junior Standing Counsel for Respondent 2.

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