To ensure interests of revenue authorities are effectively represented before HCs
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has decided to review performance of lawyers appearing for tax matter in High Courts on a monthly basis. For the last 13 years, this has been done on an annual basis.
“Allocation/re-allocation of cases to the counsels may be done based on the performance of the counsel,” the instruction issued by CBIC said. The instruction issued in 2007 prescribed that the Commissioner of Customs /Central Excise having jurisdiction over a case shall submit a half yearly report to the Chief Commissioner in respect of the cases represented by the counsels. On the basis of the Commissioners’ reports, the Chief Commissioners will review the performance of the appointed counsels before June 30 of each year and send an annual report to the Board.
Impact on assessments
Commenting on the development, Divakar Vijayasarathy, Founder and Managing Partner – DVS Advisors LLP, said it is a given fact that corporate assesssees are represented by high profile counsels and in certain critical cases, the revenue’s contention falls flat due to lack of proper coordination and poor preparation on the revenue’s side. A judicial precedence at the high court level would have far reaching impact on subsequent assessments in the respective State, if not entire country, since the Jurisdictional High Court Decision is binding on the revenue authorities and tribunal in the State.
“The decision to review the performance of counsels is long overdue and would ensure that the revenue’s side is put forth diligently before the High Courts. However the effect of the outcome may not be significant without a significant enhancement of compensation,” he said.
The Board feels any adverse order by the High Court may have all-India ramifications, and considering the limited scope of SLP under Article 136 of the Constitution of India, it becomes imperative that all possible steps are taken by the field formations to defend the interests of revenue, before the respective High Courts, effectively. “This necessarily entails monitoring of performance of the standing counsels, representing the Department before High Courts, on a regular basis and taking any corrective steps including assignment/re-assignment of cases to the counsels accordingly,” CBIC said.
Status of pending cases
The instruction also said that the counsels may also be sensitised to intimate the Department about the status of the pending matters on timely basis. Unless there is a justification, any last-minute intimation by the counsels including request for para-wise comments, delay in informing the status of the cases etc. may also be taken into account, while assigning the cases to the counsels.
The board reiterated that the appeals/petitions filed before High Court must be handled effectively and diligently, leaving no room for laxity. “The success in the cases pending before High Court requires extensive deliberation and cooperation between the Commissionerates and the Counsels,” the board said.