I-T dept to shed largest-litigant tag, mulls raising appeal limits

Written by Shruti Srivastava | Shruti Srivastava | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 1 2011, 03:27am hrs
The income tax department, known to be the largest litigant, is working towards reducing burden of court cases, a move that is in line with the National Litigation Policy mooted by the government last year.

The department is mulling over an increase in limits above which it files appeals in tribunal or courts, an official familiar with the development told The Indian Express.

The department is planning to change the limits for appeals. Now for filing an appeal in Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), the tax effect should be Rs 3 lakh, for high courts it has been increased to Rs 10 lakh and for Supreme Court it is Rs 25 lakh, the official said.

As of now, if the tax effect is Rs 2 lakh, the department can file an appeal in Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, if the tax effect is Rs 4 lakh, the appeal can be filed in high court and if the tax effect is Rs 10 lakh, appeal can be filed in the Supreme Court.

With the move, the department expects to reduce up to 13% cases at ITAT level and 25-30% cases at high court and Supreme Court level each, the source added.

Even if the case is strong enough to be taken to the tribunal, the department will not do so. This will cut down the wastage of resources in unnecessary litigation and reduce the burden of overburdened courts while at the same time assess would also benefit from this policy, the official added.

According to the National Litigation Policy, the government should work towards reducing litigation in courts so that valuable court time would be spent in resolving other pending cases. This will help in achieving the goal in the National Legal Mission to reduce average pendency time from 15 years to 3 years.

The policy envisages that government and its various agencies, which are the pre-dominant litigants in courts and tribunals in the country, should become efficient and responsible litigant.

The initiative by the department comes in the backdrop of criticism by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee that the I-T department has emerged as the largest litigant in the country.

Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had stated in its report that the disputed tax amount can wipe off the revenue deficit of the government in 2008-09.

The total amount of direct tax stuck at the commissioner (appeals) level is Rs 2.20 lakh crore for 2008-09, the CAG had pointed out.

Apart from that, Rs 12,757.59 crore is stuck at Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Supreme Court and high court levels, the finance minister had told the Parliament last year.