In a major anti-graft move, the government has allowed the CBI to probe allegations against at least 20 members of the country's top income tax tribunal, who allegedly outsourced writing of judgments to private parties.
Nearly two years after the CBI had first asked the government seeking sanction to begin a preliminary inquiry against these serving and retired members of the Income Tax Appellate tribunal (ITAT), law minister Salman Khurshid on Monday gave the green signal.
Khurshid's nod came after the Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia had expressed displeasure over the lack of action against some tribunal members who allegedly allowed private parties to write judgments on their behalf and sought financial favours in return.
The minister's decision to let CBI probe the affairs of the tribunal, which deals with appeals worth hundreds of crores of rupees, comes against the decisions of income tax commissioners across the country, following Attorney General GE Vahanvati's opinion recommending a "thorough probe" into the allegations.The law minister had informed the Rajya Sabha on March 19 that Justice Kapadia had written to the government in February last year and sent a reminder in January this year to take "appropriate action against some members of the tribunal according to rules."
Following Justice Kapadia's letters and his meeting with the minister, Khushid had directed the legal affairs department "to expedite the matter".
The CBI had been seeking the ministry's nod to probe these tribunal members posted in different parts of the country.
The ministry had in January allowed the CBI to file a chargesheet in a Kolkata court against a suspended tribunal member, Jugal Kishore.
Following a tip-off, the CBI in May 2008 recovered R28 lakh from Kishore's Kolkata residence. This amount was allegedly paid by a chartered accountancy firm.
Later, the CBI seized computers from the firm and scrutiny of discs led to retrieval of 75 documents that showed similarities with 69 orders passed by the tribunal's benches in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Guwahati.