An estimated 69 orders passed by as many as 23 members of various benches of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) are now the subject matter of an unprecedented nationwide inquiry for alleged corruption by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
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.
All orders under the scanner are alleged to have been issued in collusion with chartered accountancy firm S K Tulsiyan and Co. 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 Kishores residence.
After a three-year-long investigation,the CBI identified at least 69 judgments where it said S K Tulsiyan & Co. not only had prior knowledge of these orders but in many cases is suspected to have written them as well.
The most glaring case is that of the tribunals Kolkata bench as many as 12 of its orders were recovered from Tulsiyans hard discs before these were delivered,the CBI has alleged.
The Law Ministry has granted sanction to register Preliminary Enquiries (PEs) against 15 ITAT members and four officials of the Income Tax Department.
Ten ITAT members are working in the Kolkata bench; others are from the benches in Mumbai,Chennai,Bhubaneswar,Patna and Hyderabad. The officers under probe are either judicial members or accountant members.
The sanctions were received by the CBI after a long delay and reportedly after the Law Ministry sought the opinion of Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati. The CBI had already registered three PEs against eight other ITAT members,of the Kolkata and Guwahati benches. These eight ITAT members had retired and,therefore,no sanction for registering PEs was required in their case.