K. Sukumaran, J. - The Editor of the newspaper Navab filed this writ petition on 10-1-1984 seeking a writ of mandamus against the 1st respondent, CIT to retain the 2nd respondent - K. R. K. Menon, ITO - 'in his position as investigator and assessor against 3rd respondent'. The 3rd respondent is described as P. N. Sankaranarayanan, Partner, M/s. P. K. Nanu Ezhuthasan & Sons, West Fort Trichur. Shri K. Karunakaran, the Honble Chief Minister of the Government of Kerala is the 4th respondent.
2. According to the petitioner, there have been proceedings by the Income-tax Authorities, including a raid, against the 3rd respondent. Exts. P3 and P4 are the letters exchanged between the 3rd respondent and the ITO. Under Ext. P3 dt. 30-11-1983 the 3rd respondent wanted a copy of the statement taken from him by the department. On 3-12-1983 the department gave the reply pointing out that the statement sought for will be furnished on completion of the investigation. Ext. P2 is stated to be a copy of the representation submitted by the petitioner, before the Governor of Kerala seeking an enquiry against the 4th respondent, the Chief Minister of the State. The representation, among other things alleged that the 4th respondent was aiding the 3rd respondent in amassing illegitimate wealth. Ext. P5 is a report in the Indian Express dt. 8-1-1984. It reports about the 2nd respondent having been 'shifted to new desk in Trichur', and of another officer by name K. J. Anthappan having taken 'over Mr. Menons responsibility including the Ezhuthassan affairs.
3. Wading through the pleadings in the writ petition, the petitioners legal contention appears to be what is summed up in the following sentences :
'The shifting of the 2nd respondent from the assessment investigation was intentionally made by using the malevolent influence of the 4th respondent in the Union Government and the 1st respondent for the sole purpose of safeguarding the vested interests and suppressing the criminality of the 3rd respondent. The said transfer is an abuse of officialdom which will definitely hamper the fearless dispensation of official duties of the Government servants. If not the 4th respondent has used his influence as the Chief Minister of the State of Kerala the transfer of the 2nd respondent would not have taken place.'
4. On 12-1-1984, an additional affidavit was filed by the petitioner. Along with it, he filed another news item published in the newspaper Desabhimani on 11-1-1984. That refers to a transfer of the income-tax file from Ward E where it used to be handled, to Ward A. It is stated in this affidavit that the files ought to have been dealt with by Shri K. J. Anthappan if the object behind the transfer was to have a meticulous enquiry, The petitioner asserted :
'The transfer of file as well as of the 2nd respondent were made in order to spoil the enquiry so as to give a clean chit to 3rd respondent who is having fiscal and amorous connection with the 4th respondent.'
5. On 12-1-1984 the petition came up for preliminary hearing. As desired by me, Counsel for the IT department offered to make available the relevant files so as to appraise the court about the correct situation. The files were so made available on 17-1-1984.
6. The matter was further heard on 18-1-1984. Counsel for the petitioner was informed then about the relevant facts discernible from the files. Further arguments were addressed on that day on behalf of the petitioner.
7. There is no reference in the writ petition to any of the relevant legal provisions or even of factual details disclosing the locus standi of the petitioner.
8. As noted earlier, the petitioner sought to make out that the transfer was being effected at the instance and due to the influence of the 4th respondent, who wields power in his capacity as the Chief Minister of the State. Whether there is any basis for that assertion can be examined now.
9. It is seen from the files that Shri Anthappan had been working as TRO from 23-6-1980 and that he had applied for a change to assessment work. The Commissioner by his communication dt. 4-8-1983 recommended his request and suggested the appointment of Shri K. P. D. Nair as T.R.O. This suggestion was accepted and a notification appointing Shri K. P. D. Nair as TRO is seen to have been issued on 18-11-1983. It however, transpires that in the meanwhile Shri K. P. D. Nair had been transferred to Bombay. On receipt of the notification of 18-11-1983, the Commissioner addressed a further communication on 24-11-1983 suggesting that Shri K. R. K. Menon may be appointed as TRO. This recommendation appears to have been accepted by the CBDT and a notification dt. 19-12-1983 appointing Shri K. R. K. Menon as TRO was issued thereafter.
10. The facts and materials furnished by the petitioner are not sufficient to establish the existence of any extraneous considerations in the transfer and postings effected in the department. It cannot be assumed, without more that any pressure had been exerted by the 4th respondent on the CIT to bring about the transfers and positings complained of in the writ petition.
11. The note of the Commissioner contained in the file indicates that all the case connected with M/s. Nanu Ezhuthassan and Sons have been transferred by the IAC Trichur, to the seniormost ITO, Trichur Circle. Entrustment of an important assessment with the seniormost officer of the Circle cannot normally be viewed with any suspicion.
12. I am also unable to accept the insinuation of the petitioner about a particular officer of the department. It is to be expected that the officers will discharge their duties effectively and efficiently. The officers of the IT department carry with them a tradition and a reputation for their competence. The tradition is reflected in the oath which had been prescribed for their forerunners in office in England u/s. XXII of the then IT Act there. The oath to be taken was :
'that I will judge and determine upon all Matters and Things which shall be brought before me under the said Act without Favour, Affection or Malice ......'
13. Matters connected with the Income-tax Authorities are dealt with under Chapter XIII of the IT Act, 1961. They include power of the various authorities to transfer the cases or the officers, as exigencies require. The court has indicated the dominant idea that should weigh with the authorities in effecting the transfer. The power of transfer is not an arbitrary one; it is to be exercised for the more convenient and efficient collection of tax.
14. Ordinarily complaints about transfer are made either by the assessees or by the officers. In the present case, no complaint has been made by any of the persons directly connected with the transfer of the officers or of the files.
15. In some situations, the courts have been reluctant to probe into complaints made against authorities without adequate investigation into the factual and legal aspects. Warner, J. thus thought of providing a filter to insulate such authorities which 'are particularly vulnerable to actions by busy bodies and cranks' (see Barrs v. Bethell (1982) 1 All ER 106 at p. 120). Although such restraint is desirable, the court should be careful not to shut out writ petitions projecting a public cause. Lord Scarsan posed the question of locus standi in Reg. v. I.R.C., Ex parte National Federation of Selfemployed (1981) 2 WLR 722 and he answered :
'The Courts have a role, long established in the public law. They are available to the citizen who has a genuine, grievance if he can show that it is one in respect of which prerogative relief is appropriate.'
The difficulties of the Crown would not deter a Court in the discharge of the solemn duty Continued, Lord Scarman, in very emphatic terms :
'I would not be a party to the retreat of the Courts from this field of public law merely because the duties imposed upon the Revenue are complex and call for management decisions in which discretion must play a significant role.'
Earlier, the ld. Law Lord observed how 'the modern case law recognises a legal duty owed by the revenue to the general body of the taxpayers to treat taxpayers fairly, to use their discretionary powers so that subject to the requirements of good management, discrimination between one group of taxpayers and another does not arise to ensure that there are no favourities and no sacrificial victims.'
16. Where there has been an act of favouritism or a harassing activity, on the part of the revenue would, therefore, be within the legitimate area of enquiry for a court exercising extraordinary jurisdiction. In that sense, it would raise a question of public interest.
17. A public interest which was attempted to be projected by the writ petition, persuaded me to ascertain the facts with reference to the files of the department. The conclusion I have reached on the scrutiny thereof has been already indicated above.
18. Reliance had been naturally placed on a press report Ext. P5 in the 'Indian Express' of 8-1-1984 and another report in the Desabhimani on a subsequent dt. 11-1-1984. Newspapers undoubtedly play a prominent, and quite often useful, role in the fights for public cause. The recognition of the power and influence of the press is perhaps reflected in the statement. 'It is the inveterate habit of British Statement to listen with sensitive ears to the oracles from the Printing House Square'. (See 'The Prime Minister' by Harlod Spender, page 253). In the adjudication of legal issues, extreme care and caution have necessarily to be exercised for acting upon the reports in the press. It may be that on occasions, the courts may draw on the ordinary experience of those who read newspaper at the present day' as did Lord Fraser of Tullybelton in the Sikh Boys Turban case [see (1983) 2 WLR 620 at p. 625]. Referring to Law Lords of the House of Lords in that context, Lord Denning, in his latest book The Closing Chapter made the following statement (at p. 82):
'I am tempted to suggest that if they do not read the newspaper, they must be sitting in an ivory tower. To my mind, that is not the right place for a judge to sit.'
As observed by Virginia Woolf, the daily paper is history in the raw, I have considered the issues involved herein, bearing in mind the above aspects.
19. It is sufficient to note that the press reports are, in the circumstances of the case, inadequate to establish, even prima facie, a mala fide exercise of power by the 1st respondent CIT. I dismiss the writ petition.