Somesh Arora: CESTAT: The crying need for more benches

With the listing of more than 40 cases each day and members being required to give a patient hearing, go back from the courts and dictate elaborate orders addressing each submission and then to go back home and read files for the next day — it sure is a Herculean calling. A similar amount of work load exists even in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, but there the judges have the benefit of Research Assistants and young lawyers available to them. It is time the Ministry Of Finance should seriously think of creating at least 10-15 benches of CESTAT to allow for clearance of pendency. It will also augur well for the functioning of the CESTAT, if members are allowed to have assistance of young lawyers on the pattern of High Courts and the Supreme Court against monthly honorarium.

Goodbye to appraising cadre:  With self-assessment becoming the norm in Customs in pursuance of promises made by FM in the budget, appraisers no more needed for assessment work. It is time that the CBEC thinks of  redeploying the Appraising Cadre, elsewhere and gradually of abolishing it. One good way of re-deploying it, can be Customs audit which is being thought of, as a substitute to regular assessment by the Customs Officers. This will enable their skills to be gainfully employed and will meet the requirement of officers for this additional work.

Poverty line and Narcotics drugs

If there is one thing common between the poverty line of Rs. 32/- for urban area and Rs. 26/- for rural area per family consumption as fixed by the Planning commission and the price of Rs one crore per kg of heroin, then it is that the prices of both refuse to budge, for the last thirty years. While poverty line definition seems to be talking of prices as were existing thirty years back, the price of heroin as reported in various seizures continues to be the same over this period. In this world, only the persons on drugs seem to be enjoying an inflation-proof smoke. There have been suggestions in the past, that glorification of drug prices should be avoided and instead of quoting arbitrary figures of one crore per k.g. of heroin, which may only have effect of attracting more people to trade and of raising margin for persons in trade, agencies should quote figures in terms of lives saved. For example, take that a quantity of say 100 gms. of heroin is enough to make a person a drug addict and therefore seizure of one k.g. of heroin  has saved 10 persons from becoming drug addicts. But like all good suggestions even this one does not find many takers in the bureaucracy.

Time for police to verify self

A cop in Delhi loots gold chains from one and kills two during his escapade. Another cop in MP beats up and kills a mentally challenged person. Cops in Bihar let loose their lathis on women and cops in UP kill a truck driver for not paying Rs 5,000  as bribe. All, in a matter of one week. One really wonders if various state police departments that cajole all to get the servant verification as and when some incident happens are aware of the ticking bomb they are sitting on. More than corruption, it is criminalization which is becoming the issue. It is time that the police authorities do thorough antecedent verification of their fresh recruits and periodically thereafter.

Special discount for Anna pledge

The members of Team Anna have now started focusing on getting public servants and members of public to pledge in writing that neither they will give bribe nor accept the same. One good way of popularizing the concept in the forthcoming Diwali sales season, could be to offer special discount by retailers to persons taking Anna pledge. This will also demonstrate to the world that honesty eventually pays and also keeps the cash registers ringing for retailers.