Justice Katju ups the heat on judicial corruption with a new blog post. Justice Katju's revelations paint a scary picture about the state of our judiciary at a time when public impatience over denial of justice due to cases that drag on for decades
Justice Markandey Katju's latest blog makes even more startling revelations about judicial corruption and the reluctance of a former chief justice to act, for fear of damaging the reputation of the judiciary. The new revelations about five judges in the Allahabad High Court expose the extent of the rot in the system.
On Sunday, 10th August, Justice Katju wrote on his blog, “Most Chief Justices of India are reluctant to expose corruption in the judiciary thinking that this will defame the judiciary, and so they prefer to bury corruption under the carpet, not realizing that the bulge under the carpet will show.”
Here is the story he narrates: There was a Judge in a High Court who had a very bad reputation about his integrity, and on this account was transferred to Allahabad High Court. Later with passage of time he became very senior and Acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court. Some people started demanding that he be made Chief Justice of some High Court, and later brought to the Supreme Court.The then Chief Justice of India, Justice Kapadia, had received several complaints about this Judge that even at Allahabad he was indulging in corruption,and Justice Kapadia requested me to find out the true facts about that Judge ( I was then a Judge of the Supreme Court).
At that time I had to go to Allahabad, my home town for attending a function, and while there I contacted some lawyers I knew, and got 3 mobile numbers of the agents of this Judge through whom he was taking money. On returning to Delhi I gave these 3 mobile numbers to Justice Kapadia, and suggested that he get these numbers tapped through intelligence agencies.
About two months thereafter Justice Kapadia told me that he had done as I had suggested, and the conversations tapped revealed the corruption of this Judge.
After this, Justice Kapadia should have called this Judge to Delhi and asked for his resignation, failing which he would refer the matter to Parliament for impeachment, but he did no such thing,(though he did not allow the Judge to become Chief Justice of any High Court or a Supreme Court Judge). Criticising the inaction and reluctance to act against judicial corruption, he says, "Does corruption by Judges defame the judiciary, or does exposing such corruption defame it ?".
The blog goes on to narrate another episode: When I was Acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court I went to Delhi and met Justice Lahoti, the then Chief Justice of india, and gave him a chit containing names of five judges of Allahabad High Court who were doing shocking things. Justice Lahoti asked me what should be done ? I replied that if he permitted, I would solve the problem in 24 hours. He asked, how ?
I replied that I was going back to Allahabad by the night train, and on reaching there would call the Registrar General and tell him to telephone these 5 Judges, and tell them that the Chief Justice had instructed that they would not be allowed entry into the High Court premises. Police was being posted at the gate of the High Court with instruction from me that these judges were not to be allowed entry. Their chambers had been locked, and they will receive their salary checks at home, and they need not come to the High Court. I did not want to see them inside the High Court premises as they had disgraced the High Court.
When I said this Justice Lahoti said "Please do not do this, because then the politicians will get a handle, and then they will set up a National Judicial Commission". I replied that since he was not permitting me to do this, I would not, but he may take whatever action he thought fit.
Later some of the five judges whose names I gave were transferred to another High Court.
But is transfer a solution ? Such corrupt judges should be sacked, but this is not done to ' avoid defaming the judiciary'. I again ask : does corruption by Judges defame the judiciary, or does exposing such corruption defame it ?
Predictably, the judges, even retired ones aren't happy with Justice Katju's revelations. Justice Kapadia, former chief justice of India has apparently denied knowledge of the episode that Justice Katju cites. But clearly, the whistleblower is on the warpath and the public is delighted that a senior judge of the supreme court is on their side.
In yet another blog post today, Justice Katju has rebutted ex-CJI Kapadia's denials. He says, “In response to my statement Justice Kapadia has said that he did not remember this. It is strange that he has no recollection of this, but the record would be existing with the intelligence agency concerned, and perhaps also in the official file of the Chief Justice.
Justice Kapadia also said that he did not bring any Judge to the Supreme Court who was unfit.
I may remind him that the Supreme Court Collegium, headed by CJI KG Balakrishnan, and of which Justice Kapadia was a member, almost succeeded in bringing a totally unfit person into the Supreme Court. That Judge was a Judge of the Madras High Court when I was Chief Justice there, so I knew all about his bad reputation. Later, he was made Chief Justice of another High Court , and was being considered for elevation to the Supreme court.
One day during lunch interval, I went to Justice Kapadia's chamber and told him about the bad reputation of that Judge, giving details. I told him that I was not in the Supreme Court Collegium, but he was, and now it was for him to do whatever he thinks proper, and I have done my duty. There was no use informing Justice Balakrishnan since it was he who was pushing for the Judge's elevation to the Supreme Court.
After listening to me, Justice Kapadia thanked me, and said that in future also if I have such information I should pass it on to him.
Despite this, the Collegium, of which Justice Kapadia was a member, recommended the name of that Judge having questionable integrity, and he would have definitely been elevated to the Supreme Court but for the Tamilnadu lawyers who produced voluminous documentary evidence of his corruption. As a result, he was transferred to a small High Court, and later impeachment proceedings were brought against him in Parliament, which lapsed when he resigned.
So Justice Kapadia's claim that he did not bring any corrupt Judge to the Supreme Court, has to be qualified by at least one instance where he ( or rather the Collegium of which he was a member) almost succeeded.
It may be further mentioned that even though I had informed Justice Kapadia about that Judge's reputation, neither the Collegium, nor Justice KG Balakrishnan ever consulted me about that Judge. I should have been consulted, as the decision in the Judges case says, since I was on the bench of the Madras High Court ( as Chief Justice ) at the time that Judge was also in the Madras High Court. Instead, Justice Ravindran was consulted, although Justice Ravindran and that Judge were never in any High Court at the same time. This was obviously done by Justice K.G. Balakrishnan knowing that if consulted I would give an adverse report . But why did Justice Kapadia not tell Justice Balakrishnan to consult me ?
Much later I met Justice Kapadia and reminded him that I had informed him about the bad reputation of that Judge, but no heed was paid to my words. I said that the Supreme Court could have been saved so much embarrassment if my advice had been sought. Justice Kapadia admitted that I had informed him, but said that Justice Balakrishnan, the CJI, was adamant, and so the recommendation was made.”
Justice Katju's posts are bound to provoke much debate in the media, but it seems safe to say that the people of India will overwhelmingly back his boldness in letting the sunlight on to how corruption is buried by the judiciary, which hands out punishment to the rest of India for the very same offences that they get away with.
A new procedure announced by the income tax (I-T) department on Saturday will coerce you to pay unethical and punitive tax demand even for clerical errors
The Centralised Processing Cell (CPC) of Income Tax (I-T) Department has mandated by a communication dated 9 August 2014 that “Short Payment Defaults” in the quarterly tax deducted at source (TDS) statements due to unmatched challans has to be closed before you are allowed to download the “consolidated” files from the website of TDS Reconciliation Analysis and Correction Enabling System (TRACES) for relevant statements.
This is another step to offload the job from the I-T department to the taxpayer. Now the assessee will do the job of matching unmatched challans for the department, which will reduce the unmatched tax suspense credit lying with the Government. It will also help the deductee to get his tax credit and avoid undue stress for non-receipt of tax credit.
But what about the hardship for both the deductor and deductee when say through clerical error a wrong permanent account number (PAN) is written into the return and the return gets uploaded? In such a situation there are two likely scenarios:
(i) The PAN entered is completely wrong and not in the IT database.
(ii) The PAN entered exists in the database but it is that of some person other than the actual deductee.
In situation (i) above, the error is thrown up by the TRACES software and one needs to rectify the error by giving the correct PAN in the revised return.
The hardship in this is when the error report appears, the law mandates that for incorrect or non-existing PAN the tax rate should be 20%.
In this case, the deductor has correctly deducted the tax at the rate of say 10% (for professionals and rent) and paid it in time, filed the return too in time, he will still get a default notice and be asked to pay the differential tax and interest thereon!
Even if he files a revised return giving correct PAN, his liability will stand and he will HAVE to pay this unethical demand!!
Is the Government so bankrupt of ideas for raising funds that they are now resorting to taxing clerical errors? If so, then I think tax paying citizens have a right to put the Government in the docks for all the taxes collected and grossly misused/ abused as reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and various exposes, which come out in the media from time to time. Because those errors of omission and commission (deliberate or otherwise) are not clerical they are made by highly educated and qualified people in Government!
Now, if the deductor does not pay this amount, he will not be allowed to download the next quarter’s Consolidated file to correct any errors therein. This is nothing but blackmail and coercion.
In situation (ii) the PAN entered is correct but does not reflect in the actual deductees' Form 26A as a result he gets in touch with the deductor asking the deductor to rectify the mistake. This error actually should not arise at all, as the tax department should have a PAN validation utility being run in the background at the time of data entry into the return form itself. In fact the moment PAN is entered and there is a mismatch of the name in the tax database with that of the name in the return, the return should throw up the error at the time of filing the return – this happens while filing income tax returns (ITRs). When such an error takes place, the tax credit appears in the name of a person who has no clue about the tax credit in his Form 26AS. If he is not aware of the same and files his return through a chartered accountant (CA) or tax practitioner, who uploads the TDS details in the return without verification, then the assessee will get a notice for not disclosing the income relevant to the incorrect tax credit claimed. Then begins the process of hearing etc and trying to prove that the tax reflected in his form 26AS does not belong to him.
The best part is that the I-T department expects a person, who receives such incorrect tax credit, to get in touch with the deductor and have him file a revised return! Can there be something more illogical and stupid than this? Does the assessee have any clue who has deposited the tax into his PAN? How can he find out who the deductor is, in any case?
There is an option for obtaining “REFUND” of excess TDS paid – in fact the TRACES site has a “refund” tab, which has not been activated. Cases of refund may arise when a deductor pays tax under section 194C by mistake instead of 194J, and subsequently pays tax under section 194J. He does not have any payments under section 194C for the rest of the year, thus he is entitled to a refund. There is a provision under law for obtaining this refund, but I suppose this refund process has not been activated as crores of rupees may go out of the Government kitty, which it is currently enjoying. Given below are two screen shots which show the above.
To conclude, I would like to say that the overall computerisation of the I-T Department is a commendable effort, it still has a lot of room for improvement and making the entire system transparent and user friendly. Using a hammer when a sweet could do the job is not the way of making the system transparent and user friendly.
The country has 39 mt of coal in stock at various places. On the other hand, power producers are reeling under fuel shortage with a stock that would last for seven days. It is inconceivable that 39 mt of coal piled up in just one day. Hope the government take necessary action against all those responsibile for this situation
Nearly half of the Indian thermal power plants in the country, which depend upon coal, are reeling under fuel shortage with less than seven days in stock! The first step is to overcome such a dangerous situation by promulgating an ordinance, if necessary, to ensure that all these units have at least 15 days inventory, so that there is no shut down leading to a power crisis.
Set against this unfortunate hand to mouth existence, Power Minister, Piyush Goyal has just discovered that 39 million tonnes (mt) of coal are in our stocks, at various places, but not moved to or delivered to the power generating consumers! This would mean, most regrettably, that at various coordination points, nobody was doing his/ her bar chart right, to ensure that goods are on the "move" so as to reach point of consumption.
When monsoon begins, with India Meteorological Department (IMD)'s projections, everyone concerned ought to know the way wind blows and what type of rains can one expect in a given territory. And be prepared for it. It is also the time, when power generators plan shut downs for over hauling of their thermal plants, as power needs are lower at this point of time.
Take the case of Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corp (AP GenCo). They have announced shutdown of several of its thermal power plants in the state, as hydel power generation increases during the monsoon. AP GenCo will take up overhauling of a 500 MW and 2 x 210 MW plants at Dr Narla Tatarao Power Station in Vijayawada and another 210 MW at Rayalasemma Thermal power station. Generally, 15 to 30 days are needed for this overhaul and the Southern Regional Power Centre and the Central Electricity Authority has been notified with the shutdown schedule. In case of AP Genco, they expect to overhaul all their units by end of December each year, so as to render hassle-free service during summer.
Reverting back to India's main coal supplier, Coal India Ltd (CIL), against the target of 35.80 mt, CIL has achieved only 33.1 mt. Likewise, during the first four months of this fiscal, CIL production was only 141.34 mt against the output target of 148.43 mt. And the off-take during April-July was a target of 171.43 mt while only 157.59 mt was achieved. Power Minister, as also the power generators, needs to know what caused them to fail in this manner. Discussions and debates in the past have revealed the bottle-necks in the clearing of coal from pit heads, non-availability of rakes, or delays in getting them in time. Besides, the exclusive corridors for transporting the precious coal to points of consumption have not been made ready.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been proposing to develop inland waterways to overcome the communication bottlenecks in railway transportation, as the originally planned "dedicated" corridors are not yet ready and fully functional. Inland waterways, if planned and developed, would greatly reduce the strain and dependence on railways. Already, barges have begun supplying imported coal to the Farakka Super Thermal Plant in the absence of land based transport alternative. Inland waterway transportation would be cheaper and definitely congestion free.
From the press reports, it appears that the NDA will endeavour to give a decisive push to make Ganges-Hooghly waterway navigable for freight movement by vying for a Word Bank loan upto $1 billion (about Rs6,000 crore) and for which the Inland Waterway Authority will be having discussions with them. The government plans to have a few barrages on the Ganga from Allahabad to Haldia to facilitate movement of larger vessels.
As a matter of interest relating to inland waterway utilisation, China has already 15,000 kms of navigable waterways and hopes to add 5,000 kms more in the next decade. On the contrary, India has not made much headway in this direction. However, it plans to spend Rs1 lakh crore on the development of waterways of which Rs20,000 crore are expected to be financed by the government itself, while the rest may come from borrowing or from public sector.
Such developments will take time to achieve. However, what is of immediate importance is to have top priority consultations amongst the Ministry of Coal, Power, Railways and the Coal India officials, duly and actually represented by the CMDs of the seven subsidiary coal mining companies to know the ground situation to move the coal piling up everywhere. Information from CIL could be "doctored" and need not necessarily be as per the ground situation as experienced by the shipping mining unit.
It is inconceivable that 39 mt of coal did not pile up in just one day. This backlog must have been going on for months and it is truly a shame that all the concerned officials did not take adequate steps to overcome the impasse, and let it grow in size to this level. They need to answer why they let this grow into a big balloon.
All the officials concerned in all these Ministries are to be held ACCOUNTABLE and those who did not do their job need to be given a golden handshake at the worst. No government can tolerate this sloppy work that hurts the nation. Railways must make the rakes available and ensure speedy movement of the coal cargo on a priority basis.
No excuses. CIL needs to deliver the goods.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)