For five months,the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is waiting for sanction from the union ministry of law to investigate a sitting high court judge and 16 others for alleged corruption in the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT).
This judge,it is learnt,was earlier a member of the ITAT before being elevated to the High Court.
Sanction has been sought to inquire against these 17 ITAT members who were/are serving on benches in Mumbai,Indore,Ahmedabad,Hyderabad,Agra,Cuttack and Kolkata. These ITAT members are suspected to have been in league with some lawyers and chartered accountants to fix rulings in return for payoffs.
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.
Sources said the issue of a sitting judges alleged involvement in the ITAT scam was brought to the notice of Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia by Law Minister Salman Khurshid at a meeting some time ago. Kapadia is learnt to have asked the law ministry to take appropriate action in the matter.
The names of these persons came to light during investigation by the agency into the alleged nexus between suspended ITAT member Jugal Kishore and Ravi Tulsiyan of S K Tulsiyan and Company,a chartered accountancy firm,one Subhash of Mayank Securities and Nishant Jain.
In 2008,the CBI registered a case against Kishore after the agency recovered Rs 28 lakh from his residence. The money had allegedly been paid to him by Jain on behalf of Subhash and on instructions of the CA firm.
After a three-year-long investigation,the CBI is said to have 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.
During the investigation,the agency came across evidence that showed that Kishores was not a singular example and that many other members could also be following the same practice. Documents retrieved from the computers of some chartered accountancy firm also pointed to the involvement of other ITAT members and benches.
The CBI also informed the Ministry of Finance.
Besides the single case which has been chargesheeted against Jugal Kishore the CBI has filed three PEs (Preliminary Enquiries) in the case.