Cases of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal should be integrated into National Judicial Data Grid: Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics & IT, formally launched the e-filing portal of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), ‘itat e-dwar’, at 04.00 pm today, the 25 June 2021 in New Delhi.
Launching the Portal, the Minister explained the power of Digital India. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad said Digital India means empowering an ordinary Indian with the power of technology – To bridge the digital divide between the digital haves and the digital have nots leading to digital inclusion achieved by technology, which is low cost, homegrown and developmental. Digital India means a framework for transforming India with the power of technology.
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad highlighted that nearly 129 crores of the Indian population are enrolled for Aadhar which is the digital identity to supplement one’s physical identity. Nearly 40 crore bank accounts have been opened for the poor and linked to Aadhar. Using the power of Digital India about Rs.16.7 lakh crore has been transferred to the account of the poor as Direct Benefit Transfer, saving Rs.1.78 lakh crores which was, otherwise, being siphoned off by middlemen. Digital India has positioned our country as a world leader in digital payments.
It needs to be highlighted that Aadhar, DBT, UPI, and the health scheme, Ayushman Bharat, all are ‘made in India’. Another milestone achievement of Digital India is the establishment of Common Service Centres, which were only 75,000 in number in 2014, now stand at 4lakh. CSCs provide several services that are citizen-centric and the Minister suggested that the lawyers must associate themselves in rendering legal advice to the needy through Tele Law program, through the CSCs. Nearly 9 lakh advice was given during the last 4 years though Tele Law.
The Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad detailed how during the pandemic and the lockdown that ensued the Judiciary functioned through digital means and heard more than one crore cases. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that data about more than 18 crore cases are available in the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) and he suggested that cases of ITAT should also be integrated into the NJDG. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad pointed out that VC facility has been provided in more than 800 jails so that the undertrials are able to appear before the Courts without the police having to bring them physically to the courts.
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad further cautioned that this initiative of ITAT must not be seen as a solitary step. Instead, it should be seen as a larger narrative of transformation that the country is undergoing through digital media. It enables innovation and empowerment and opens new avenues for growth. He expressed hope that ‘itat e-dwar’ will be widely accepted by lawyers and tax litigants alike.
On this occasion, a virtual function was organized at the national level which was attended by the functionaries of ITAT from all the 28 stations. The members of various Bar Associations also joined the virtual function. It was also attended by the Officers of the Income Tax Department, Chartered Accountants, Taxpayers, and other legal luminaries in the field of tax, from across the country.
Justice P.P. Bhatt, President of ITAT, on this occasion, informed the gathering that the launch of e-Filing Portal ‘itat e-dwar’ will enhance the accessibility, accountability, and transparency in the day-to-day working of the ITAT. It would not only result in economization of the use of paper, savings in costs but also rationalization of the fixation of cases leading to quicker disposal of cases. On this occasion, Justice Bhatt also announced a plan to set up paperless courts in the ITAT with a pilot project being undertaken at Delhi Benches of ITAT.
It was also informed that even during the period of Pandemic, by using the tools of information and communication technology, various benches of ITAT have functioned and kept up its activity of judicial dispensation. It was revealed that in spite of the restricted functioning of Benches, the adoption of Video Conferencing has brought down the pendency of cases to about 64,500 as against 88,000 on 1st April 2020.
The newly developed e-Filing Portal would enable the parties to file their Appeals, Miscellaneous Applications, documents, paper books, etc., electronically.
On this occasion, Shri Anoop Kumar Mendiratta, Union Law Secretary also addressed and congratulated the ITAT for the initiative taken by it developing the new e-Filing Portal. Shri G.S. Pannu, Vice President (Delhi Zone) and Chairman, Computerization Committee, ITAT explained that with the combination of a digital courtroom, virtual hearings, and Mobile Application providing Judicial Information, paperless courts will soon be a reality in ITAT.