CBI moves to close graft cases against tax tribunal members
The CBI has filed closure reports in nearly a dozen cases involving around two dozen judges of various benches of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) who were under probe following corruption cases registered against them between 2011-2012. The agency has concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” and the “charges cannot be substantiated”.
“Closure reports have been filed in many regular cases and preliminary enquiries while one case is under trial,” CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Indian Express.
The ITAT, a quasi-judicial body, is the highest income tax appellate authority. Its bench usually has two members — a judicial and an accountant member — who are selected by a board chaired by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
It was in 2008 that the CBI had first registered a case against Jugal Kishore, an ITAT member from Kolkata, for allegedly receiving a bribe from the bosses of S K Tulsiyan and Co., for delivering “pre-decided’’ judgments. The CBI recovered Rs 28 lakh from Kishore’s residence. The agency seized 75 “pre-dated judgments” from the hard discs of Tulsiyan & Co. in Kolkata.
Besides Kishore, the CBI named S K Tulsiyan, his brother Shashi Tulsiyan, son Ravi Tulsiyan, “middleman” Nishant Jain, and Kolkata businessman Subhash Bajoria in its chargesheet filed in January 2012. This case is under trial.
Earlier, the CBI had also registered cases against ITAT members, including some sitting high court judges, who were posted in Mumbai, Indore, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Agra, Cuttack and Kolkata. A disproportionate assets case was also filed against then ITAT vice-president G E Veerabhadrappa.
But in its closure report, the CBI has said the charges could not be proved and the suspects were able to explain the source of income and assets owned by them and their families. Sources, however, said some of the cases were closed under duress, despite sufficient material evidence.
The agency has also concluded that the charge that the judgments were “pre-written” cannot be proved, and it is a normal practice for the benches to seek assistance from the accountant firms due to shortage of staff.
While it is learnt to have recommended departmental action against some staff members of the ITAT benches, the CBI has advised the ITAT chairman to be vigilant and review the rules and practices related to preparation and delivery of the orders. In a few cases, the agency has said there was no quid pro quo and the judgments were given on merit.