Supreme Court directs Centre to place material before SCSC in case of issue in appointment of particular member at ITAT in advance

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Central Government to place the tangible material before the Search-cum-Selection Committee (SCSC) in case it comes to the knowledge of the authorities that a certain candidate is not eligible to be appointed as a member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.

A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha noted that the material shall be placed before the SCSC which would then be in a position to make changes in the recommendation.

The Top Court also made it clear that the Prime Minister's Office cannot take a final call on rejecting names recommended for appointment to tribunals without the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report being placed before the SCSC.

Court said that all inputs available with the government must be placed with SCSC in advance and if some facts come to light after a recommendation in exceptional circumstances, that too must be placed before the committee.

The bench, in furtherance of a request made by a counsel to accept two members from the Central Government in the SCSC committee, said, "It must be emphasized that the Supreme Court judge headed SCSC committee also consists of 2 Secretaries from the Government."

The bench was hearing a contempt plea filed against the Finance Secretary and Law Secretary for not filling up the vacancies at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in compliance of the Supreme Court order.

The bench was informed that since the SCSC had recommended the names of 41 persons for appointment, 28 on the main list and 13 on the waitlist, 22 were appointed and 19 remain to be appointed.

Senior Advocate R Basant while arguing before the bench submitted that no more things can be suppressed, 19 new vacancies have arisen, at the moment 38 positions are remaining vacant.

Attorney General KK Venugopal appearing for the Central Government submitted that no case for the contempt jurisdiction has been made out as the Finance Secretary has nothing to do with the appointment under the law, whereas the then Secretary has since been appointed as the Judge of the High Court.

In reference to this, the Court directed that it would not be expedient to continue these proceedings in contempt and the matter may be listed as an IA.

AG Venugopal further submitted, "The pendency is going down continuously, let this be referred to IB and placed before the high-powered committee headed by CJI."

Over the issue of pendency of matters before the ITAT, the bench opined that it is not necessary for the Court to render any finding. The matter has been listed for further hearing on July 12, 2022.

Cause Title: Madras Bar Association Vs. Union of India & Anr