CESTAT President declares war on pendency
ECGC Bar Association hosted a welcome
dinner in honour of Dr. Justice Satish Chandra, new President CESTAT. The
function was held in the evening of
Shri R.K. Jain, President of the Bar Association delivered the welcome speech, setting the tone for Bar’s expectation from the new President, Shri Jain expressed concerns about the pendency of more than 1 lakh appeals and 1500 stay applications and suggested that ever increasing pendencies can be checked if the cases are listed and heard in chronological order strictly according to their age and orders are delivered within a month of their final hearing and the precedents are strictly followed to enforce uniformity in the decisions of the CESTAT. Shri Jain also stressed the need for re-defining the jurisdiction of CESTAT Benches in Northern India on the lines of the ITAT, where the jurisdiction over the cases of NCR region lies with the Delhi Benches. He urged the President to tone up the CESTAT registry as malfunctioning of the registry makes CESTAT dysfunctional.
Shri Jain further stated that the year of 2017 may witness the advent of GST regime and hopefully, under the leadership of new President, Dr. Justice Satish Chandra, the GST is likely to come to the fold of CESTAT. Shri Jain concluding his welcome speech by assuring the new President of complete support of the Bar Association for undertaking much awaited reforms and wished Dr. Justice Satish Chandra that he may be the last President of the CESTAT and also be the first President of the GST Tribunal.
Dr. Justice Satish Chandra welcomed the Vice-President and Members of the ITAT and expressed happiness on the entire tax forum being present. He also emphasised the need for quick disposal of the pending cases and pointed out that he is having only 22 Members out of the sanctioned strength of 32 Members and shortly this strength will be reduced to 20 after the retirement of two Members. Disclosing his priorities, Dr. Justice Satish Chandra outlined his priority that within a month’s time, his team will be liquidating all pending cases prior to the year 2007 and also the stay applications. He said that he believes in speedy disposal of case so that the aggrieved person can move to the higher forum to get the issue settled. He cited by way of example that only this week, an appellant filed an early hearing application before his bench and he granted the earliest hearing and asked the counsel to argue the matter on merits on the same day itself but the counsel sought further date for arguing the matter. He also stated that after joining, he found that CESTAT is not in a happy state of affair and the matter has been brought to the notice of the Revenue Secretary.
Dr. Justice Satish Chandra stressed that the cases should not linger on months after the final hearing, the decision should be given at the earliest because even if they are kept pending for six months, the decision will be the same. The quick decision would help in attaining the finality to the matter as the aggrieved party can approach the Higher forum, said Justice Chandra.
The new President also commented that the endeavours of a Tax Tribunal should be that whatever tax is due, should be collected and goes to the Government funds and whatever tax is not due, it should not be allowed to be collected. Dr. Justice Satish Chandra expressed his happiness on seeing the large gathering of the Members of the Bar and dignitaries and Members of the CESTAT & ITAT and thanked the Bar Association for the warm welcome.
Shri Somesh Arora, Member, Executive Committee of ECGC Bar Association thanked Hon’ble Dr. Justice Satish Chandra, President and Hon’ble Shri V. Padmanabhan, Member (Tech.), CESTAT for agreeing to spare their time for the welcome event. Shri Arora stated that the Hon’ble President has brought along with him a vast experience of taxation and judicial expertise besides academic excellence and have set a priority for himself and his team for liquidating the pendency on a war footing. He also thanked the Members of the CESTAT and Vice-President & Members of the ITAT for coming over for the evening and gracing the occasion. He also thanked the Members of the Bench and Bar whose presence has added colour and light to this memorable welcome party.
Text of Welcome Speech by Shri R.K. Jain, President, Bar Association, in honour of Dr. Justice Satish Chandra, President, CESTAT
Hon’ble Dr. Justice Satish Chandra, President CESTAT, Hon’ble Members of the CESTAT, Hon’ble Vice President of ITAT, Shri G.D. Agrawal & other Hon’ble Members of the ITAT and all other dignitaries, Ladies and Gentlemen.
As you all know, we have assembled today to welcome Hon’ble Dr. Justice Satish Chandra, President, CESTAT, who has joined CESTAT recently. His appointment has infact fulfiled long cherished demand of the Bar for appointing a Tax expert as President of this Tribunal. We also welcome Hon’ble Shri V. Padmanabhan & Hon’ble Shri B. Ravichandran who have joined the CESTAT recently. Shri B. Ravichandran is on tour to Chandigarh and we are missing him today as he is carrying on the mission of the Hon’ble President to pass orders in all cases heard by him at Chandigarh. Hon’ble Shri M.V. Ravindran, Member, CESTAT Mumbai is with us as he is in Delhi for the hearing of Larger Bench cases.
Hon’ble Dr. Justice Satish Chandra is LL.M. (Gold Medalist) from Meerut University & Doctorate in Law. He has specialisation in constitutional law, international law and taxation laws. He has worked in the Law Commission for nearly a decade and has been Judicial Member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal for more than 10 years. In the Allahabad High Court, from where the Lordship has retired in 2015, was on the Tax Bench.
Sir, we welcome you and convey our best wishes for your tenure in CESTAT. We are indeed privileged to have you as the President of CESTAT. Your invaluable experience in tax matters will sure be an asset to the institution and will also enlighten our members about the intricacies of Tax Laws.
Sir, few days with you in CESTAT has made it quite evident to all of us that you have the admirable qualities of quick disposal of cases and a tremendous grasp of the subject of taxation. We are equally sure that you must have by now apprised yourself broadly of the challenges that face CESTAT in its administrative and judicial functioning. As an institution which has served its purpose of justice to revenue litigants for past more than 34 years, it is now on threshold of imminent expansion as ever increasing pendency has left us with no other choice. The ever mounting pendency figure now stands at more than 1,05,000 Appeals and 1,500 Stay Applications which you have inherited from your predecessor and the same is having a crippling effect on the administration of justice at the level of CESTAT. Solutions therefore have to be found and implemented on a war footing.
In this year’s Budget, the Hon’ble Finance Minister has announced 11 more Benches for the CESTAT, besides this, there is also a need to have greater efficiency within the CESTAT, which can be achieved by time tested procedures of orderly and agewise listing of cases, bunching of cases involving similar issues and passing of orders immediately after hearing. In this changing era of instant food and online shopping, the justice delivery system should not be found lacking, thus, there cannot be a justification of keeping orders pending for more than a month after the final hearing as stated in the Government Advisory to CESTAT.
As a responsible Bar, you will find us fully supporting and standing committed to every measure that may be taken by you to dispense speedy and systemic justice.
Sir, adhering to precedents is not only desirable from the point of view of judicial discipline but also enables quick decision making and creates a certainty of law in the minds of everyone concerned. Once Justice Krishna Iyer said “Certainty of law is the safety of citizen”. In a democratic society governed by rule of laws, Tax Laws should not be interpreted differently in different cities or by different benches of the same Tribunal, as it results in discrimination which is prohibited by Article 14 of our Constitution. The doctrine of precedent needs to be respected and implemented, so as to eliminate re-adjudication of the same issue. This will also dispel the need for Larger Benches which are proving to be too costly for denting the pendency in the CESTAT. We must remember when the wheel is already invented, there is no need for re-inventing the wheel again and again.
Only two days back, the Rajya Sabha has passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill for GST and the year of 2017 may witness the advent of GST regime. Under your leadership, we hope that the GST comes to our fold. The Bar assure you of all support in this respect.
The other area that needs your kind attention is redefining the jurisdiction of Benches in Northern India. In the ITAT, the jurisdiction for NCR region lies with the Delhi Benches, same yardstick also needs to be applied for the CESTAT, particularly when the jurisdiction of Chief Commissioners of Customs, Delhi under the Customs Act are based on NCR region.
Sir, an efficient Registry is the mainstay of functioning of any judicial or quasi-judicial institution. The malfunctioning of the registry is the malfunctioning of the CESTAT because no chain can be stronger than its weakest link. Due attention is required to be paid to the registry. If the delay in passing and issuing of orders is to be minimised, which has also been emphasised even by the Apex Court. Thus, the Registry of the CESTAT is required to be toned-up.
Sir, wheel of justice starts moving with the listing of cases for hearing and if cases are not listed and heard chronologically according to their age, it is bound to pollute the whole justice delivery system and adversely affect public confidence without which no institution can survive. Your Lordship can diagnose the problem by perusing the after court cause lists of last few months. The young and Junior Members of the Bar are mostly the sufferers. The problem of large pendencies at the CESTAT is also attributed to non-listing of cases in a fair and orderly manner. Technology coupled with strong resolve of implementation can easily provide a solution to the problem of large pendencies.
Sir, every problem big or small affords a solution. On behalf of this Bar and all its office bearers, I can assure you that we shall be too happy, to become part of and contribute to, any of your deliberated solutions. Sir, Your joining in CESTAT has brought in fresh hopes for an era of quick reforms. We therefore welcome you and wish you all the best on the start of your journey and profoundly hope that when it ends, it is so full of accomplishments and achievements that everyone feels that it was though short but really eventful.
Once again I wish you the very best for your tenure and also wish that you may be the last President of the CESTAT and also the 1st President of the GST Tribunal.
Thanking you, Sir.
Text of “Vote of Thanks” by Shri Somesh Arora, Executive Committee Member, Bar Association
1. Honourable Dr. Justice, Shri Satish Chandra, President of the CESTAT
2. Honourable Members Smt. Archana Wadhwa, Shri M.V. Ravindran, Shri S.K. Mohanty, Shri R.K. Singh, Shri V. Padmanabhan.
3. All our distinguished Guests from ITAT, STAT and former Members and Chairman.
It is a matter of immense pleasure for us that Hon’ble Dr. Shri. Chandra after having assumed the charge as President, CESTAT has agreed to spare time to be with us. We are indeed honoured Sir! We are also honoured to welcome and thank Sh. V. Padmanabhan sir who joined recently.
Hon’ble Dr. Justice Sir, the few days that we have seen you at the Bench, we at the Bar, have understood and appreciated that you bring along a vast experience of taxation and judicial expertise besides academic excellence and have set a priority for yourself and your team of pendency clearance. Your sincerity to the chosen task has been amply demonstrated to us and our Bar fraternity assures you of our utmost co-operation. Your resolve to catch the monster of pendency by its horns will sure reduce the numbers to miniscule in the days to come. Sir, we are hopeful that the transition to GST regime and evolving of the new tax system will be smooth under your stewardship, as and when the challenge arises.
We are as usual excited and honoured to have all the respected members with us who have taken time off from their busy schedules of work which extends even to the weekends. We are indeed indebted to all of them. We welcome Shri B. Ravichandran and Shri V. Padmanabhan, who have joined the CESTAT, Delhi recently.
Thanks a lot to our other distinguished guests from other Tribunals for sparing their precious time and gracing this occasion. Tax fraternity has a lot to share in common and Sirs your benign presence on such social occasions enables us to get enriched with your expertise.
On behalf of all the Members of the Bar, it is my pleasant duty to thank Shri R.K. Jain, President and Shri Kamaljeet Singh, Secretary of the Bar for having organised this beautiful evening with all their sincere efforts and ability. Last but not the least, our thanks to all the members of the Executive Committee and of this Bar for having made this occasion a grand success. They are our galaxy of stars whose presence adds colour and light to this memorable evening.
We are also obliged to CSOI, its catering and other staff for having provided all their support for the evening.
Thank you very much and have a happy and lovely weekend.
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