Mr. Yogendra K. Batra retired as Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, Ahmedabad, in 2015, and is currently teaching at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. From heading all the top posts in the Income Tax Department to teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, his expertise in the field of income tax law is unparalleled.
In this interview he talks to us about:
- His decision to join Income Revenue Services (IRS) over IPS
- His views on the current tax laws in India and their implementation.
- His decision to take up teaching post retirement and his experience thus far
- His views on the Institute of Law, Nirma University, its teaching methods, and its students
How would you introduce yourself to our readers?
I consider myself a learner and seeker of knowledge and that is how I would like people to know me.
Can you tell our readers a little about your illustrious career?
I started my career as a Lecturer of Economics at DAV (PG) College, Bulandshahr, and subsequently joined SSV (PG) College, Hapur. In my pursuit for excellence, I kept preparing for Civil services and UP PCS exams. In 1983 I was selected in UP PCS (Accounts) and in 1984 I was selected for the Civil Services and obtained a rank of 206. I joined the Indian Revenue Service and after a training of almost twenty months at the Lal Bhadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussorie and the National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur I joined the Income tax Department in Delhi and in the very first year itself I was posted as the Assistant Commissioner of Income tax (Investigation Circle) wherein I was assigned the work relating to assessment of cases where search seizure operations were carried out. I also acted as Under Secretary, Tax Policy and Legislation under the Central Board of Direct Taxes and contributed to four financial bills (1991-1994). I retired as the Principal Commissioner of Income tax, Ahmedabad, in the year 2015. I have now taken up the role of teaching young minds and mentoring them in their pursuit of excellence.
You chose the Income Tax Department over the Indian Police Service. What motivated this decision?
I got the 206th rank in Civil Services Exams of 1983 and was more than eligible for Indian Police Services. I preferred Income tax (IRS) because I wanted a career free from political interference. Since I was a lecturer of Economics, the field of taxation was not unknown territory to me. I enjoyed every bit of my time at the Income Tax Department.
Having chaired and headed almost all the top posts in the Income Tax Department, what are your views on the current tax laws and their implementation procedure in India?
I started my career as Assistant Commissioner (Investigation Circle) in New Delhi. This was a very demanding and a very sensitive job considering my experience in the Department. Subsequently I was posted as Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, Central Circle, Delhi, wherein I assessed group cases of big business houses. Subsequently I was selected as Under Secretary, Tax Policy and Legislation in the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the apex body of Income Tax Department. There I worked for more than three years and contributed to four finance bills, i.e. 1991 to 1994. Incidentally, these were the initial years of economic liberalization in the country and a number of amendments were made to the Income Tax Act. Then I came to Ahmedabad as Deputy Commissioner (nowadays, Joint Commissioner) and worked in various capacities. As Commissioner of Income tax I worked as Appellate Commissioner, Director of Income tax (Investigation), Commissioner (Audit), Commissioner TDS and Principal Commissioner.
The Tax Laws in India have been simplified over the years. The tax rates have been reduced and they are comparable to most of the developed countries. The tax regime in India is more taxpayer friendly now. However, a lot is required to be done on the administrative front. It is said that you cannot tax a person and keep him happy simultaneously. Therefore a lot of work is required to be done in order to educate taxpayers about the advantages of taxes and the ill effects of evading tax. A close review of the efforts made by the government on this through media and publicity has yielded desired results. The tax payers are gradually understanding their responsibility and more taxes are being garnered through voluntary compliance.
You opted to teach post retirement, despite receiving numerous offers from leading companies. How does this role fit into your overall career goals? How would you describe your ideal job?
As I mentioned earlier, I am a seeker of knowledge, be it any profession or job I undertake. Teaching has always been close to my heart, since it gives me an opportunity to continuously learn, research and interact with the younger generation- the future of India. It gives me great pride to be a contributor, albeit a small one, in mentoring our future generation. As far as an ideal job is considered, I believe it is different for different individuals, varying according to their aspirations, priorities and specialties. For me, what I do is ideal, and therefore I do with full passion and commitment.
How would you define good teaching? What do you think are the greatest responsibilities of a good instructor?
I would like to call myself an educator instead of an instructor. An educator needs to be current in his/her subject, have clarity of concept and thought, be open to new ideas and developments in the subject. Above all, a good instructor should be able to generate interest and curiosity in a student.
What are your views on the Institute of Law, Nirma University, and its students? What do you think about the pedagogical model being followed at the institute?
The Institute of Law, Nirma University, is a professional institute where students get enrolled on the basis of their CLAT scores. These aspiring lawyers are well versed in the theoretical as well as practical aspects of the law. There are several specializations available, such as criminal law, taxation law, etc., so that the students can make an important career choice early on. Advocates, legal experts and judges are called for lectures so as to help students get acquainted with a hands-on experience of the vocation. Students are also provided with a state-of-the-art digital library so that they can hone their skills.
From heading the income tax department to teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, what are the things you enjoy, and what are the things you would like to to change about your current position?
Nirma University is a pioneer institute which is grooming a generation of lawyers to come. The institute is improving its nationwide ranking continuously which indicates the high standards the university is constantly aspiring to. The institute is endowed with rich library resources, a dedicated faculty and an exciting campus. The curriculum has been designed immaculately so as to provide an excellent mix of theoretical and practical elements. However, one must not lose sight of the fact that ultimately, it all boils down to the students’ performance and how they utilize the resources that are made available to them.
My job as Principal Commissioner of Income Tax was quite different as compared to my teaching role. As a bureaucrat you have to perform your duties within a stringent framework of regulations. Teaching on the other hand, gives you room to innovate and experiment. There is nothing as such which I dislike about my present role. However, a lack of enthusiasm among the students worries me a lot.
From your experience, what would be your suggestions to the new generation of students? How would you say their education and way of life is different from yours as a student?
My only suggestion to them is to follow your passion. Identify your strengths and interests first, then set your goal and follow it with commitment and perseverance. The Universe will be at your doorstep- have the courage to ask for it, work for it and believe in yourself.
This generation has a lot of opportunities, avenues and facilities made available to them, which we did not have in our time. However, they also have a lot more competition and struggle compared to us. Nevertheless, Darwin’s theory, survival of the fittest, is so far apt for all ages and generations. Since the students are in a professional institute they cannot behave like students of a regular college and settle for only routine understanding of any subject. The have to develop a desire for knowledge and have to read beyond what has been discussed in the class.
Finally, what would be your suggestion or advice to anyone who aspires to have a successful career? What are the dos and don’ts for ensuring success in any field?
There is no replacement of dedication, commitment and perseverance for anyone wanting to succeed in their career. Strive for excellence in whatever you do and you shall succeed. Give your 101% to what you do because a little bit extra effort makes all the difference. The following mathematical equation is proof that a little extra effort each day can go a long way.
1.01365 = 37.8
0.99365 = 0.03
Students should read at least one case law a day because staying abreast with current affairs is absolutely essential for any lawyer.