Neeati Narayan wasted no time in catching hold of the Symbiosis Pune team who were the finalists at the coveted 10th Nani Palkhivala Memorial Moot Court Competition, 2013.
The team comprised of Speakers Gourav Mohanty and Shruti Raina and Researcher Adishree Chakraborty.
We also had a one-on-one with Ameya Mithe, who has been referred quite many times as their ultimate source of determination and argumentation which made the victory possible.
Since he played such an indispensable role in coaching the team right from the very beginning, we decided to interview him and pick on some of those brains which scream Tax, Tax and some more Tax.
Q. How was the initial bonding with the team in the position of a coach like?
Ans: Initially, my bonding with the team members was quite formal since they were only acquaintances to me before the moot allotment.
It took a little time for us to get comfortable with the coach-team relationship since we were all batch-mates, except one, who was also only a year junior to me.
However, with numerous discussions in person and over phone, we got quite informal with each other, and even became good friends.
Q. What did you perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses?
Ans: It was quite obvious in the beginning that the team members were very sharp and hardworking, being the top rank holders in our college moot eliminations.
Since Shruti and Gourav (the two speakers) had worked together before on numerous occasions for moots and paper writing competitions, they made an excellent team. The team members had a very limited prior experience of working on Income Tax.
This was initially a weakness, because they had to start from the basics of taxation law, but I also perceive it to be one of their strengths because they had a fresh mind which enabled them to understand and come up with some out-of-the-box arguments.
Q. How did you go about the training process? What’s your interest in the subject area?
Ans: I initially gave them basics to read up on. I engaged in a number of discussions with them, discussing various possible arguments. I had to make sure time and again that the concepts were crystal clear to them.
They would often research and look for case laws, and I would ratify their relevance.
After their memo submission, I made them plead a number of times before me, as well as other different people not acquainted with the problem. We stuck to the proverb which we heard from a batch-mate- “Plead plead until you bleed.”
My maximum research in tax has been on General Anti-Avoidance Rule.
However, I have worked on the interpretation and application of the Income Tax Act in my internship. My main interest lies in Income Tax Litigation.
Q. How was it working from the beginning to the end?Any Funny Instance? Tips for others deciphering tax laws?
It was quite a challenge.
The problem was quite technical for us students to crack without any professional help. Even I had a very limited experience in working on transfer pricing, which is one of the most technical aspects of the Income Tax Law.
However, coming up with such technical arguments, all by our own, was quite a rewarding experience.
I can think of three funny instances. In the course of practice pleadings, the speakers often referred “machinery provision” as “missionary provision”.
The second instance was when once I was making them plead before me, I had asked Gourav to address me as “Your Ladyship” to prepare him for a possibility of a Lady Judge.
He couldn’t get the hang of addressing me as that, and each time he mentioned “Your Lordship”, I pretended to take offence, and once even said, “Counsel, you’re a chauvinist.”
On another instance, once Shruti was arguing for the Revenue before me,this side having no legal backing, after a point she had no answers to satisfy my questions.
When I persisted with my questions, she snapped and said “but Your Lordship, India needs money!”
I believe the most important thing in deciphering tax is to read the bare provisions carefully.
Each time you read them, the meaning changes.
Also, there are different rules of interpretations for tax laws, which must be kept in mind while framing arguments.
I believe that mere reading and researching is not the key for tax.
One must spend more time thinking about the logic and the interpretations.