On June 24, the CBEC — in a letter to all the Chief Commissioners of Central Excise/Customs/Service Tax and the Director General of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DG, DRI) — said it has been decided to constitute a fresh panel of senior/junior standing counsel against the existing 111 slots. Elaborating on the criteria for selection, it said the Committee (of Chief Commissioners) should “interview all the applicants.” This meant, the CBEC did not specifically bar the 111 from reapplying. The CBEC also said the Committee should note the communication skills and make an overall assessment of the applicant keeping performance as the key criterion. It added that the Committee should “discretely examine the applicant’s reputation/standing.” It asked the Commissioners and the DG, DRI to publish advertisements regarding the vacancies by July 10 and send their recommendations (after scrutiny and interview) to the Board by August 20. A legal expert told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that the June 18 order could be considered “arbitrary” and “against the principles of natural justice” as it did not assign any reason for the scrapping of the appointments. Pointing out that the 111 counsel were appointed during the UPA government’s tenure, one of them said on condition of anonymity, that their removal was due to “political” reasons. The development comes when the government is attempting to bring down indirect tax litigation given the huge backlog.