Lax IT officers will be punished for litigation delays: CBDT

New Delhi: After Supreme Court expressed concerns over delays in filing appeals, the Finance Ministry today said "immediate action" will be taken against lax Income Tax department officials and Chief Commissioners will now monitor processing of judicial cases in both the apex court and High Courts.

The orders have been issued by the CBDT on instructions from Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who had earlier described the IT department as the "government`s biggest litigant" with over Rs 12,000 crore tax demands locked up in disputes.

According to the official data, cases involving tax demand of about Rs 7,635 crore are pending in Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), around Rs 3,849 crore is locked up in cases with High Courts while disputed matters over tax liability of about Rs 550 crore are lying with the Supreme Court.

"As you are aware, the apex court of the country has time and again expressed its anguish and annoyance over the delayed filing of SLPs as also appeals in the High Courts. In such cases, such delay is inordinate.

The inordinate delay is more pronounced in high revenue cases….the Union Finance Minister has desired to take immediate action against officials found responsible for such lapse..," according to a letter from CBDT Chairman Sudhir Chandra to all the Chief Commissioners of Income Tax (CCsIT) in the country.

The letter said all the CCsIT and Commissioners of Income Tax (CsIT) would be "personally responsible to ensure timely filing of appeals and they would immediately initiate action against the officers responsible for the delays in filing appeals, under intimation to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT)."

CBDT is the administrative authority of the I-T department.

To ensure speedy disposal, the ministry has also ruled that various I-T ranges in the country should not wait to receive the certified copies of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) from the apex court and they should be "processed on the basis of orders downloaded from the court`s website" itself.

Mukherjee while addressing top I-T officers had last year said that, "one area of concern is litigation with taxpayers. The (I-T) department is filing appeals in a routine manner, without careful thought and examination leading to the department earning the dubious distinction of being the biggest litigant in the Government of India."

"It is a matter of serious concern that despite the Supreme Court`s observations, posts in judicial wings are still lying vacant and at various places proper support system/infrastructure has not been provided to the judicial wing.

CCsIT are advised to correct the situation immediately," Chandra`s letter said, adding a compliance report should be sent before February 15.

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