The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Income Tax Department (ITD), saying that its approach to litigation in the higher courts was responsible for consistently losing cases, and that this “could be then termed as a deliberate or intentional act.” The HC has asked the department of revenue to bring the guilty officers to book.
The taxman has a very poor track record in adjudication and, in FY16, it won just 15% and 26% of the cases in the high courts and the Supreme Court, according to a recent report by the CAG. The taxman did slightly better at the appellate tribunal and got 18% decisions in its favour and 17% partially in its favour; the assessee, however, won 65% of the cases outright.
The observation came during a hearing on an appeal by the department where it wanted the court to hear a rejected appeal against the tribunal’s order.
In 2015, the court had rejected the appeal on the grounds of procedural errors after the department failed to correct them despite repeated reminders by the court.
The ITD petitioned the court that the revival of the rejected appeal was needed as it involved legal error in the tribunal order. It further said that if not corrected, these errors would continue to be part of tribunal order for other assessment year as well.
The court further said that the department was selective in its approach in picking assessees and assessment year for scrutiny. “It picks either the assessee or the assessment years pertaining to that assessee for challenging the orders in relation to them, before the higher forums. This results in revenue leakage or perpetuation of wrongs affecting adversely the collection of revenue,” the order passed in August said.
Although the court acknowledged that the error in the tribunal’s judgment would impact orders in prospective assessment year, it said that if the department of revenue was going to conveniently overlook this and not bring the guilty persons to book by initiating disciplinary measures against them, then no purpose will be served at all. “We know that the Appeal for the prior Assessment Year may not be properly drafted or does not contain the relevant details, much less the precise question of law and if that is dismissed, there will be definitely an impact on the Appeal relating to the Assessment Year under consideration.
“Hence, this is not a short-term exercise, but a major surgery which will have to be performed. If the revenue officials are prepared to take some bold decisions, then only these state of affairs will improve and not otherwise,” the order said.
However, the court allowed hearing on the rejected appeal.