By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said that judges as citizens have genuine concerns about the revenue loss and asked the Centre to expedite streamlining the appeal filing process related to direct and indirect taxation matters.

The top court asked the government to issue a notification about the setting up of a committee, which will monitor the process with technological intervention and development of software for tracking of the cases.

The Centre said that the National Informatics Centre (NIC) is collaborating to integrate the Legal Information Management and Briefing System (LIMBS) with the e-office mechanism so that real time tracking of cases can be done.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah was assured by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that a committee will be set up by next Monday, which will monitor the stages of the cases.

“Look, we as citizens of this country have genuine concern about revenue losses to the government on account of delay in filing appeals. We see that appeals are being filed with 500-600 days delay and they are dismissed by the courts. You should have a committee composed of not very senior level officers but of people, who are in know-how of things. They are the best suited to monitor the development of cases,” the bench said.

Mehta said that the problem is that many a times there is deliberate attempt to delay filing of the cases and with the new system in place, accountability will be fixed.

He added that with the new system in place once a judgement is pronounced in any court, process of filing appeal, if required will start immediately with a requisite time line.

He said that recently a high level meeting was held on the issue and even he had participated in the deliberation and several suggestions have been made, which will be incorporated.

The bench said in a hearing held on Thursday, “At least you issue a small notification about the setting up of the committee, so that the court knows that the work has started and we will leave the issue here”.

The top court said that developing a system with technological intervention will help the government in creating a business friendly environment.

“We are only trying to protect the revenue department. This will protect the interest of the government. You should have case information software from where you can retrieve data, case status and other relevant details. This will help in reducing pendency and create a business friendly environment. You apply your mind, and first set up a committee,” the bench said.

The top court added that the government should have a similar system in place for Goods and Service Tax also, which will help in fast tracking and speedy adjudication of the cases and creating a business friendly environment in the country.

Justice Shah said that the creation of a time-line which the government has thought of will be effective only if it is adhered by all the departments down the line as the delay starts from their end.

The top court posted the matter for further hearing on August 27 and asked the government to apprise it about the developments on that day.

Earlier, this month the top court had taken serious exception to the failure of finance department officials in finalising a proposal to streamline the process of filing appeals and warned it will not hesitate to initiate contempt against them and take coercive action.

It had taken note of repeated adjournments sought in an appeal against the order of the Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal filed with a delay of 536 days.

On February 15, Mehta had placed a note before the bench after deliberation with senior union government officials including the finance secretary and law secretary and the chairpersons of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs.

In the note it was submitted that both Boards have issued instructions outlining the time lines for different levels for processing of a case for filing an Special Leave Petition to ensure that appeal is filed within the stipulated time frame of 90 days.

The proposal said that there should be a Committee in each Board (CBDT and CBIC) consisting of-Member (Judicial)-chairman, Director General of the Directorate in-charge for litigation management-convener, Commissioner (Judicial), Legal advisor for department of legal affairs, and Central Government Standing Counsel.

It said that the Committees of the both Boards should meet every week at a fixed time (say, every Tuesday at 5 pm) one after another and take the final decision on whether to file an SLP or not and only in exceptional cases of disagreement, matter could be processed on file between Department of Revenue and Department of Legal Affairs and even SG/ASG.

In the meetings the Finance Secretary had said that there are around 20-22 SLPs being filed between both the Boards every week and the Committee should be able to take quick decisions cutting down movement of files through various levels.

On February 10, the top court had said that the union government, in the Department of Revenue must find an answer to this state of affairs by ensuring that matters which are required to be litigated are litigated with all necessary dispatch and matters not worthy of being pursued are set to rest.