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'Like a Honey Bee Draws Nectar': CJI SA Bobde Calls Arbitrary, Excessive Tax a Social Injustice by Govt

File photo of CJI Sharad Bobde.

File photo of CJI Sharad Bobde.

Drawing an analogy, the CJI referred to ancient taxation laws in India and said that tax should be collected from people like a honey bee draws nectar from a flower without harming it.

New Delhi: Just a week ahead of the Union Budget, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Friday said arbitrary and excessive tax resulted in social injustice and asked the government to reduce the burden on citizens.

Drawing an analogy, the CJI referred to ancient taxation laws in India and said that tax should be collected from people like a honey bee draws nectar from a flower without harming it. He was speaking at an event held to mark the 79th Foundation ceremony of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in the national capital.

His comments come amidst a worrying slowdown that has seen India’s growth estimate hit an 11-year-low of 5 per cent.

Senior tax officials have said India's corporate and income tax collection for the current year is likely to fall for the first time in two decades amid a sharp fall in economic growth and cut in corporate tax rates.

The tax department had managed to collect only Rs 7.3 lakh crore as of January 23, about 5.5 per cent less than the amount collected by the same point last year, said a senior tax official.

Bobde also made a case for speedy resolution of tax disputes saying it will act as an incentive for tax payers and free the funds locked in litigation.

"A just and speedy dispute resolution is perceived as a tax incentive by the taxpayer. To the tax collector, an efficient tax judiciary assures that demands arising out of legitimate assessment are not strangled in delayed litigation," Bobde said at the 79th foundation day celebrations of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.

The Chief Justice also expressed concern over the pendency of cases of tax disputes.

According to official data, total pendency of appeals at the Supreme Court, High Court and CESTAT (Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal) as on June 30, 2017, was 2,73,591, whereas the same significantly came down to 1,05,756 as on March 31, 2019, a reduction of 61 per cent.

With regard to direct taxes, as many as 3.41 lakh cases were pending before commissioner (appeals), while 92,205 cases were pending before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) as on March 31, 2019.

The CJI’s comments came in the backdrop of a rise in retail inflation to about five-and-half year high of 7.35 per cent in December 2019, which surpassed the RBI's comfort level, mainly due to spiralling prices of vegetables as onions were selling costlier.

Bobde also emphasised on the use of artificial intelligence to expedite the process with caution that it should not replace the human discretion required for delivering justice.

(With inputs from PTI)

first published:January 24, 2020, 18:54 IST