The Central Information Commission (CIC) has upheld an order rejecting an RTI application seeking details of income tax returns of a person on the ground that the disclosure would cause unwarranted invasion to the privacy of the assessee.
Information Commissioner Bimal Julka was considering an appeal against an order of first appellate authority (FAA) which had upheld the denial of details of income tax returns of D Ramachandra Rao, sought by D Nagendra Prasad, the applicant.
He had sought information on nine points regarding income tax on capital gain earned by one Ramachandra Rao by selling land and house and issues related thereto.
The FAA had held that the information was covered under Section 8(1) (e) of the RTI Act, 2005 and the same could not be disclosed unless larger public interest warrants such disclosure.
The commission referred to decisions of Delhi and Bombay high courts in this regard. The Delhi High Court in Naresh Kumar Trehan vs Rakesh Kumar Gupta had held that information relating to individual assessee could not be disclosed, unless the same was justified "in the larger public interest”.
In Shailesh Gandhi vs CIC, the Bombay High Court had observed: “Returns can be no stretch of imagination be said to be a public activity, but is an obligation which a citizen owes to the state viz. to pay his taxes and since the said information is held by the Income Tax Department in a fiduciary capacity, the same cannot be directed to be revealed unless the prerequisites for the same are satisfied.”
In the light of these dictums, the commission refused to interfere with the decision of the FAA. The commission also observed that the applicant was not able to establish the larger public interest in disclosure which outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
Read the Order here.