MARCH OF THE PROFESSIONAL
Speech by Hon'ble Shri R. V. Easwar, President – Full
Court Farewell on
Dr. Shivaram, President of the ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, Mr. Dastur and Mr. Dinesh Vyas, Senior Advocates, other members of the ITAT Bar Association, Mr. Arvind Dalal, Senior Chartered Accountant, Members of the Accountancy Profession, Mr. Pawan Ved, CIT (DR) and other officers of the IRS,
Mr. Veerabhadrappa and Mr. Manmohan, Vice-Presidents of the ITAT, my colleagues in the Mumbai Benches of the ITAT, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Frankly, I am searching for words to adequately express my gratitude for the platitudes spoken about me in the past hour or so. All I can say is that you have been generous in your praise and very indulgent in overlooking my drawbacks. In a remote sense, I was looking forward to this day with some nervousness and there was a time in the past couple of days when I thought that after all this occasion – this honour conferred upon me by the Bar – may not take place due to shortage of time and other logistics. But I am grateful now to the ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, for having convened this Full Court Reference, which is so special to me, in very short notice, in a clear indication to me of the affection you have for me. I will not forget this gesture, which also, I understand, lays down a precedent of sorts.
Today is judgment day for me. I accept your judgment with all humility
I read for almost 16 years in the chambers of my revered senior, the late Mr. K. Srinivasan, senior advocate of Madras. What he did not know about the tax law was not worth knowing. He took me under his wings and took care to see that I am properly groomed in the highest traditions of the Madras Bar. He would often tell me that in whatever field one is engaged in, one should avoid shortcuts. Whenever I called on him after I joined the Tribunal, he would repeat that the moment I thought that I knew more than the counsel, I became unfit to continue as a judicial officer and should quit. I am proud to have been part of his chamber. I must also mention that
Mr. D. S. Meenakshisundaram, my first Vice-President in Calcutta when I joined the Tribunal, also came from the same chamber. The senior present here would vouch for his knowledge, balance of judgment and uprightness.
My nearly twenty-year stint in the Tribunal taught me quite a few lessons, not the least of them was patience. I did take time to understand the case but that was because I genuinely believed that everything that has to be said about the case must be said and must be heard. May be I am even guilty of delaying some of my orders, but I assure you that in all such cases the only reason was that I struggled to come to grips with the complexity of the case. The Tax Bar of all the places I had the privilege to work — Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad — exhibited enormous patience in putting up with me and I am obliged to all of them for having enlightened me on the subject with remarkable precision and clarity. My orders were the result of inputs from counsel on either side which came after a painstaking research made by them. If you think that the orders were readable, that is only because of the arguments of counsel on both sides which came after a painstaking research made by them. If you think that the orders were readable, that is only because of the arguments of counsel on both sides. The howlers were entirely mine.
I must mention the strenuous efforts put in by the officers of the income-tax department who represented the cases before me. I am aware of the immense constraints under which they work and the lack of support from the field on many occasions. With all these limitations for which they are not to blame at all, they have done a remarkable job, without being overawed by the stature of the counsel on the other side. I am obliged to them for their contribution to my work.
I worked under four Presidents and each had a different style of functioning. Without taking away anything from any of them, I must mention the late Mr. T. V. Rajagopala Rao who stood by me in times of distress. I was treated very kindly by all my bothers with whom I worked in these years and I know that they put up gladly with my habit of delaying their lunch! I did learn quite a bit from many of them which I put to good use in my work. They have been very kind to me and I can claim that I did not have any misunderstanding with any of them at any point of time. I will cherish their support. I wish them all the very best!
The institutional integrity and independence are to be fiercely guarded from undesirable elements and their designs. This is the responsibility of the Members of the ITAT no doubt, but consistent with the adage "Yatha Raja, Thatha Praja", it is the primary responsibility of the person who heads the institution who must lead by example. Unless that happens, he will have no moral authority to check wrong-doings on the part of the stakeholders of the institution. This aspect is non-negotiable and must be realized by all those concerned with the well-being of the Tribunal. It has been my experience that it is the President of the Tribunal who can make or mar the Tribunal. Of all sabotages, the internal sabotage is the worst kind and most difficult to find out or remedied. The ITAT Bar Association, Mumbai, which is a premier body amongst the Tax Bars has a responsibility to ensure this does not happen and it is my appeal to them that as always in the past, they must continue to act as a watchdog. I am grateful to the Tax Bar Associations, particularly the IAT Bar Association, Bombay for taking up cudgels against unhealthy intrusions into the independence of the Tribunal. At the same time, it may also motivate the Members to give off their best if good, clean and honest work and behaviour is recognized, encouraged and appreciated.
I take this opportunity to thank the registry and the staff of the Tribunal. Their work is little recognized. They work under conditions far from ideal. They work under several uncertainties. Many of them continue to be ad hoc employees. These are problems which have to be remedied so that they feel secure and safe. I could not complete whatever I started in this regard. I hope their grievances are heard by the right quarters. The staff of the Tribunal are a strong bulwark and their grievances cannot be ignored for long. I must make particular mention of the secretarial staff — the PS and the Senior PS — who continue with their work silently and undaunted. Their merit is not adequately recognized or appreciated. Whenever I worked, I found them top class, punctual, efficient and very hard-working. I am grateful to all the staff of the registry and the PS and Senior PS who are rendering invaluable assistance to the Members. Every member of the staff of the Tribunal, right from the Registrar to the daily-wager, is putting in his or her best under the given circumstances and I thank each one of them for the support.
I belief in destiny, I believe in God. How else can I explain what has come to me in the form of elevation to the High Court? I accept it with all humility and dedicate it to all those who have played a role in shaping me, my mental makeup, my personality and have helped me deserve it. I can say no more.
I once again express my gratitude to all of you for giving me this Full Court reference. Thank you all and Jai Hind!