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Another misadventure

Most of the cases fail at the Tribunal, high court and Supreme Court stages

Business Standard 

Please refer to “Tax defaulters beware: I-T dept initiates plan to prosecute serial dodgers” (July 7) in the Business Standard. The CBDT has given a proposal to the government for introducing  prosecution before adjudication in the case of serial tax dodgers. The CBDT does not explain how the income tax officer signing the prosecution order can declare before the court that he has satisfied himself that that a case exists on merit that the tax payer should be prosecuted. When the adjudication has not been done and obviously the client has not been heard, on what ground can the officer come to the conclusion that the client should be prosecuted?  

This idea of the CBDT seems to be designed for striking terror in the minds of tax dodgers. But why cannot the adjudications be completed? The fact is that most of the cases fail at the Tribunal, high court and Supreme Court stages. This is true for indirect tax also. The minister of state S S Palanimanickam had given the data of unsuccessful cases (only 5 per cent to 10 per cent success in Supreme Court) before courts in reply to a Parliament question in the Lok Sabha on September 5, 2012 in regard to the CBEC cases and the situation was similar for CBDT. In the last five years things could not have improved strikingly.

This noble proposal of the CBDT will be an absurdity, publicity and atrocity all combined under one wrapper. All cases will be set aside at the initial stage only. I have appeared as a witness in such cases of prosecution and if I could not satisfy the court that I had satisfied myself about the merit of the case, the court would set aside the prosecution in limine. I know a case of a public sector bank where the court set aside the prosecution in limine because the officer sanctioning the prosecution confessed to the court that he sanctioned it under the pressure of the CBI. If adjudication is not done and prosecution is launched, then the officer who signs the prosecution order will be made to look like a fool in the court. This system also will most certainly be misused by officers and political bosses. I know this subject very well and feel proud that I said “no” to two such orders to me, (one in writing and another oral) for filing prosecution before adjudication. I hope the government throws out  the proposal of the CBDT. 

Sukumar Mukhopadhyay   New Delhi
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First Published: Mon, July 10 2017. 22:35 IST