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Demise Of Tax Titan Chief Justice, Avid Reader Of The AIFTP Journal, Leaves A Void

Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia

While there were several facets to the personality of late Shri. S. H. Kapadia, the former Chief Justice of India, one unknown facet is his fascination for the AIFTP Journal and his affection towards the ITAT Bar Association. The late Jurist was also vocal in his insistence that members of the legal fraternity should put “Duty to the Country” above everything else

Much has been written about the personality of the late Shri. S. H. Kapadia. One inspiring aspect which captured the imagination of the members of the legal fraternity is how the late jurist powered his way from the position of a lowly clerk to the highest judicial office (see Chief Justice Kapadia: Inspiring Story Of Journey From Clerk To Chief Justice). Though there were several obstacles on the way, the late judge overpowered all of them to reach the pinnacle of success through sheer dint of hard work and perseverance.

The learned judge was an avid reader of professional journals like the AIFTP Journal and the CITC Journal. In fact, such was the fascination of the late jurist towards these journals, that he would keep a tab on them. If a particular issue was delayed or was missing, the Chief Justice’s office would call the Secretary of the ITAT Bar Association and request that a replacement copy be urgently sent

Another inspiring aspect of the learned Judge is how, despite the lack of a formal background in taxation, he went on to master the subject and delivered several landmark judgements such as Vodafone International 341 ITR 1 (treaty shopping), Morgan Stanley 292 ITR 416 (transfer pricing), GE India Technology (s. 195 TDS), Enron Oil & Gas (production sharing contracts), Walfort Stocks & Shares 326 ITR 1 (dividend stripping). In fact, The International Tax Review paid rich tribute to the learned Judge by describing him as one of “the biggest influences in tax”.

One aspect that is not so well known is that the learned judge was an avid reader of professional journals like the AIFTP Journal and the CITC Journal. In fact, such was the fascination of the late jurist towards these journals, that he would keep a tab on them. If a particular issue was delayed or was missing, the Chief Justice’s office would call the Secretary of the ITAT Bar Association and request that a replacement copy be urgently sent.

Even after his retirement from the office of Chief Justice, Justice Kapadia made it a point to secure a subscription to both journals for his personal account.

Another aspect of Justice Kapadia’s personality was that while he was averse to meeting members of the Bar, the public and the press in the apprehension that he might express a view or an opinion during his conversation which might interfere with the discharge of his judicial functions (see the video interview where he explains his point of view), he made an exception to this rule when it came to the ITAT Bar Association. The members of the Bar fondly recollect the occasion when Justice Kapadia was presiding over a function. Though the learned judge was surrounded by eminent VIPs and dignitaries, he sought out the members of the ITAT Bar who were also attending the function, inquired about their well-being and also inquired about the functioning of the ITAT and whether any improvements were required to be brought about there.

Yet another little known facet is that late Jurist held the ITAT in great esteem. He believed that the ITAT, with its unique dispensation of Judicial Members and Accountant Members, is in the perfect position to decide complicated issues of income-tax law. In fact, the learned Judge is believed to have once remarked that he often preferred the reasoning of the ITAT over the reasoning of the High Courts. The learned Judge also made extensive reference from the ITAT’s judgements in his own orders.

Palkhivala’s mesmerizing eloquence fuelled the learned judge’s interest in the Union Budget and the Finance Bill. In those days, the Budget papers were not available on the internet. The members of the ITAT Bar Association would urgently obtain a copy of the Budget from their sources in the Finance Ministry and deliver a copy to the learned Judge. Justice Kapadia would then sit till late in the night in his Chamber, poring over the fine print and understanding the nuances of the proposed amendments

Justice Kapadia openly admired Nani Palkhivala and was in particular fascinated by the latter’s Budget speeches (see Why Was Nani Palkhivala So Highly Revered As A Genius?). Palkhivala’s mesmerizing eloquence fuelled the learned judge’s interest in the Union Budget and the Finance Bill. In those days, the Budget papers were not available on the internet. The members of the ITAT Bar Association would urgently obtain a copy of the Budget from their sources in the Finance Ministry and deliver a copy to the learned Judge. Justice Kapadia would then sit till late in the night in his Chamber, poring over the fine print and understanding the nuances of the proposed amendments.

Then, when he was hearing matters in Court, Justice Kapadia would take the lawyers by surprise by referring to a proposed amendment which was relevant to the matter at hand. This created mild embarrassment for the lawyers because they would not even be aware of the proposed amendment in the Finance Bill. This proactive approach of the learned judge encouraged the lawyers to stay in touch with new developments in the law.

The learned Judge was also vocal in his criticism. He openly expressed dissatisfaction at the shoddy drafting of laws by the Government and blamed it for the needless proliferation of litigation. He also criticized the tax reforms proposed by the Government as being “cosmetic” and “meaningless”. His firm belief was that the reforms did not address the root cause of the problems.

The learned Judge also reminded the members of the public and members of the legal fraternity of their duty to the Country. He emphasized that “It is the duty of every Indian – Professional, business entrepreneur, workmen – to perform his/her duty keeping in mind the economic development of the country”. He was also averse to the attitude of some professionals of encouraging tax evasion. He recommended that the Code of Conduct should be amended to emphasize “Duty to the Country” as the core objective for professionals.

The ITAT Bar Association conveys its heartfelt condolences to the members of Justice Kapadia’s family and prays to God to grant eternal peace to the departed soul, strength and courage to his family members to bear this great loss. May his soul rest in peace.

8 comments on “Demise Of Tax Titan Chief Justice, Avid Reader Of The AIFTP Journal, Leaves A Void
  1. Sunil Jain BCom says:

    Hon’ble CJI SH Kapadia epitomises nobility and humility.

    His contribution to the development of tax jurisprudence including the developing arena of international tax is immense.

    A visit to his post retirement chambers near Fort area Mumbai was a sheer delight and a huge exercise in learning.He had an eye for detail and will go through the brief painstakingly seeking every detail possible and do a thorough job.

    Importantly, he chose conviction over convenience, every single time.

    RIP, Hon’ble CJI. Your departure has indeed left a void. Your good-self will be missed!twitter: @sunil_express

  2. Sunil Jain says:

    Hon’ble CJI SH Kapadia epitomises nobility and humility.

    His contribution to the development of tax jurisprudence including the developing arena of international tax is immense.

    A visit to his post retirement chambers near Fort area Mumbai was a sheer delight and a huge exercise in learning.He had an eye for detail and will go through the brief painstakingly seeking every detail possible and do a thorough job.

    Importantly, he chose conviction over convenience, every single time.

    RIP, Hon’ble CJI. Your departure has indeed left a void. Your good-self will be missed!

  3. Nem Singh says:

    Feel sorrow, being heard about the news of Justice Kapadia ji’s demise. He is a man who had come from grass root. He was a man of dignity, punctuality, integrity and knowledge of thought expressions as I have heard. His views about most critical issue between the Income Tax Department and Vodaphone case wherein he expressed that the department should consider the economic effects publicly not only with the mind of revenue recovery while deciding like cases. I have repeat the words which I have written when listen him.

    Nem Singh Says:
    August 22nd, 2012 at 9:56 am
    There is a phrase “neki kar bulandi choomegi charan tere” No doubt the per person have grace of God and eligible for that grace without any comment. I have heard the person he is a man of simplicity. God grace him, praise him, and help him.

    I prays to God to grant eternal peace to the departed soul, strength and courage to his family members to bear this great loss. May his soul rest in peace.

  4. Shambhu Chopra says:

    Justice Kapadia was a legal luminary. His loss will be sorely missed by all tax lawyers of India as his tax judgements were judicial landmarks.

  5. vswami says:

    HUMBLE salutations to the departed soul of that great jurist, par excellence , a ‘knight’ in his own right, legal legend personified, to the core; he will be remembered so long as the concept of ‘integrity’ finds its place in dictionary, and ‘judicial acumen’ in law lexicon.

  6. anandu says:

    Loss of person who is driven with intellect

  7. R. Ramamurthy says:

    My humble salutes to the departed Soul of the Great Person and his Lordships achievements needs to be remembered by one and all, whether they are lawyers or others. I pray God to send such souls again and again to our country and make our country a guiding country for the entire universe. Once again my pranams to the Grreat Man.

  8. May his soul rest in peace.

    Every great soul finally rests in peace.

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