Income tax appellate Tribunal Law Insider

By Mehak Sharma

Published On: February 05, 2022 at 10:30 IST


A Tribunal is an Administrative body established for the purpose of discharging the Judicial authorities of their duties. An Administrative Tribunal is neither a court nor an executive body. It stands somewhere midway between a court and an administrative unit.

Tribunals have been established to ease the working of higher courts. There are different tribunals for all sectors that play important role in society. Such as ITAT (Income Tax Appellate Tribunal) has been set up to handle the matters related to tax, tax evasion, etc, NCLAT (National Company Law Appellate Tribunal) to deal with the matters regarding companies such as insolvency, mergers, etc.

The orders passed by these tribunals are considered as final. The party unsatisfied by the decision so made can still appeal in the high court only if a substantial question arises is so determined.

At the time of roman empire, a tribunal was known as ‘tribunes’ that means the Magistrates of the Classical Roman republic.

Background of Establishment of Tribunal

To overcome the situation of pendency of cases arisen in the various courts including the high court, domestic tribunals and other tribunals have been set up to deal with this situation. The primary reason of their establishment was to deal with the backlogs and overcome the crisis of delays in Judgements in the administration of Justice.

Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies established to deal with the disputes related to specified matters which exercise the jurisdiction established by the tribunals. A body is referred to as Quasi-judicial when it has a partly judicial character by possession of the right given by higher authorities.

Tribunals being quasi-judicial have power to hold proceedings in the related matters and held the investigations if any required and make decisions in general manner of the court. The decision made by a tribunal will be equally respected as any decision of other courts.

Further details on difference between courts and tribunals

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was set up in January, 1941 and is specialised in dealing with the matters and the appeals relating to the direct taxes. The Law commission of India in its 14th report( 1958) titled “Reform of Judicial administration” recommended the establishment of an Appellate Tribunal or Tribunals in the Centre & in the States. Later in 1969, a committee set up under the chairmanship of Justice J. C. Shah recommended to set up independent tribunals to deal with the service matters and approaching to the high courts should be the last resort.

The administrative tribunals were set up with the recommendation of the Swaran Singh committee. His main objective for setting up tribunals was to reduce the burden on high court and to ensure the speedy process of trials of service, revenue and other matters of special importance.

Constitution of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal

The ITAT deals with appellate matters under the Jurisdiction of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Its functions are laid by the Ministry of Law of Justice. After many amendments to the Income tax act, a committee was appointed which restricted the Civil courts to entertain any matters where litigation is related to income tax and suggested formation of independent forum or a tribunal to deal with the same under the Jurisdiction of the act, i.e. The Income Tax Act.

The tribunal after getting revamped many times was constituted on 25th January 1941, by virtue of Section 5A of the Income tax Act, 1922, which states the appointment of independent tribunal and the judicial members of the tribunal by the Central Government.

Why there is a need for Tribunals?

In 1956, Justice J.C. Shah committee which was also popularly known as the High Courts arrears committee, was set by the Union government which brought into notice the urgent need of setting up independent tribunals to exclusively deal with the service matters of Government Employees in view that there has been a large pendency of number of writ petitions filed by government servants that are lying before the Supreme Court and various High Courts.

The objective behind establishing the “Tribunals” was to provide a speedier and effective forum for delivering justice.

In the past, it was realised that there were many appeals by the general public, majority of which were not of public importance and were lying unnoticed by the Supreme Court and was disturbing its regular functioning. The Supreme Court was expected to deal with such matters of constitutional importance and the matters involving substantial question.

Due to overburdening of the Apex court, such primary authorities were established that the relief can be sorted as quick and its beneficial in sense of monetary affordability as well.

Powers of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal

Section 252 of the Income Tax Act provides the powers of the Appellate tribunal, which states that the Central Government shall constitute an appellate tribunal consisting of as many judicial and accountant members as it thinks fit to exercise the powers and the function as prescribed for the tribunal by the act so mentioned.

A Judicial member has been defined as a person who has at least an experience of 10 years in Judicial office in the territory of India or a member of central legal services or equivalent or higher post.

Power to Punish for Contempt

The Tribunals have the same Jurisdiction, power and authority for the Contempt of its orders just like the High court or some other court has and they exercise the powers under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts act, 1971, which shall have the following effect subject to the modifications:

  • The reference therein to the High Court shall be constructed as including a reference to the tribunal and the Appellate Tribunal; and
  • The reference to Advocate- General in Section 15 of the said act shall be constructed as a reference to such law officers as the Central Government may, specify in this behalf.

Appeal to Supreme Court

Any person who has been Aggrieved by the orders of the Appellate Tribunal may file appeal to the Supreme Court within sixty days from the date when the order was received by the Tribunal only if any question is arising out of the order by respective tribunal:

Provided that the Supreme court may, if it is satisfied that the appellate was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal within the said period, allow it to be filed within a further period not exceeding sixty days.

Landmark Judgements by Income Tax Appellate Tribunal

  • Associated cement co. Ltd. vs. P.N. Sharma AIR 1965 S.C. 1595

A Tribunal within the meaning of Article 136 means that a tribunal is an Adjudicating authority which is vested with Judicial power of the State. In this case, it was held that the procedure for the working of the courts is prescribed by the state while there is no such prescribed procedure for the tribunals to exercise its powers.

Courts have to conform to those orders but tribunals don’t have to strictly follow the procedure. It was held that “Basic and fundamental feature that is common to both the courts & the tribunals is that they discharge judicial functions and exercise judicial powers which inherently vest in a sovereign state”. It was also held that the courts alone have no monopoly to exercise Judicial power.

  • Bharat Bank Ltd., Delhi vs. Employees of the Bharat Bank Ltd., Delhi AIR 1950 SC 188

In this case, the Supreme Court held that the award of a Tribunal can be challenged under Article 136 of the Constitution of India, if the Tribunal is created by statute and follows the provisions of the special act and when it is vested with the functions of the Court necessary for tapping of courts.

  • A.K. Behra vs. Union of India (2010) 6 S.C.R 347 

The Supreme court examined Section 12(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, wherein in this case it was held that the said provision enables the appropriate government to designate one or more members as Vice-Chairman and entitles the designated members to exercise such powers & perform such functions as may be delegated to him that cannot be regarded as “Destroying the principle of independence of judiciary or of administrative tribunals”.


One of the main reasons for establishing the Tribunals had been pendency of large number of cases and delay in disposal of cases in the Courts. The Tribunals would provide speedy Justice in cost-effective manner. The Judicial functions discharged by the Tribunals can be distinguished from administrative or executive functions in the view of the Doctrine of ‘Separation of Powers’ which forms part of the Basic structure of the Constitution.

Edited by: Tanvi Mahajan, Publisher, Law Insider


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