‎New Delhi: The Income Tax department has initiated a special country-wide exercise to engage a battery of lawyers for fighting black money cases and filing prosecution in a host of other tax evasion cases.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his white paper on black money tabled during the recently concluded Parliament session, had said that "to facilitate the launch of prosecution in cases of evasion of taxes and speedy trial and early conclusion, provisions for constitution of special courts, summons trials, and appointment of public prosecutors have been included" as part of the multi-pronged strategy to combat the menace.

The department, on directions of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), has issued fresh guidelines for hiring counsels for presenting revenue cases at the High Courts, lower courts and other judicial forums like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) and the Settlement Commission.

The Government's top law officers and Attorneys represent the department at the Supreme Court in cases of appeals or Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) like that in the Vodafone tax case.

More than 50 high-value cases of illegal assets abroad have already been filed by the I-T in various courts for prosecution and many more are in the offing.

The fresh CBDT orders not only stipulate to conduct a screening and aptitude test for the existing senior and junior counsels of the department, but also mandates that the fresh aspirants' expertise in handling direct tax matters and aptitude for interpretation and suitability to represent I-T cases will be an essential criteria for empanelment.

I-T's new unit Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was specially created last year for filing prosecution complaints in courts "under any direct tax law relating to a criminal activity" which includes those cases where illegal wealth of Indians was found to have been stashed abroad.

"The Chief Commissioners of the department across the country have been asked to get onboard aptitude based counsels so that black money cases can be pursued vigorously. Each Chief Commissioner (CC) range can have 10-20 counsels depending on the size of the taxpayer base," a senior I-T official said.

The CBDT has also revised, post April 2012, and charted out work-based remuneration paid to these counsels for effective engagement of their services.

In order to ensure that there are no delays in such cases, the CBDT has also framed rules that the counsels and the Commissioners of I-T will regularly share information on important developments in the case from time to time "particularly with regard to dates of hearing, conclusion of hearing and date of judgement or order among others".

The Finance Bill of 2012 also provides for appointment of specialised public prosecutors for representing the case of tax authorities before the courts.

The new guidelines also provides for an annual performance appraisal of the counsels by the top department officials with a clause that in cases of unsatisfactory work, the services of the lawyer could be terminated.

"Those counsels who take keen interest in their work and are generally alert and responsive to the department's interest will essentially be retained and favoured for representing I-T cases," he official said.


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