The Central Information Commission on Monday directed the Income Tax Department to investigate into an incident of IT returns of an RTI applicant being released to third parties without his consent.
“Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and considering the gravity and seriousness of the issues raised by the Appellant, there is an emergent requirement to investigate the root cause of the leakages of Confidential Data filed by the Tax Payers and plug the loopholes forthwith. It is essential to protect the Confidential Financial Data filed by millions of Tax Payers from falling into wrong hands in the larger public interest,” Information Commissioner Bimal Julka observed.
The Commission was hearing an appeal filed by Mr. Badal Satapathy, who had submitted that his ITR details for the Financial Years 2005 to 2011 were downloaded in December, 2012 by the owner of two different USER IDs, and shared with a third party without his consent.
He had now sought information about the details of data security/sharing policies practiced by the income Tax Department, and the grounds on which the financial details filed by an IT assessee could be made available to a third party/public. He had also demanded to know whether such an act attracted penal provisions under Indian Penal Code or the IT Act, 1961.
During the course of the hearing, it was revealed that Mr. Satapathy was notified of the transfer of his RTI application 16 different times. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, he had then filed an Appeal.
Noting that the IT department, the Supreme Court and various High Courts have often denied disclosure of IT returns, the CIC observed, “The Commission was baffled while considering the facts and circumstances of the present case in as much as in majority of similar subject matters considered by the Commission on a daily basis, the Respondents invariably claimed various exemptions under Section 8(1) to deny information to information seekers regarding Income Tax Returns of Third Parties. However, in the present instance, the personal and confidential information of the information seeker himself is alleged to have been compromised and no satisfactory response regarding the status of investigation was provided.”
It thereafter directed that investigation into the incident be completed within a period of 30 days, and that a report be shared with the Appellant and the Commission thereafter.
Read the Order here.