Income cannot be disclosed under RTI

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
2nd Floor, C-Wing, August Kranti Bhawan
Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi -110066
Tel: 011 – 26182597, 26182598
Email: kl.das@nic.in

Appeal No.:- CIC/BS/A/2016/000800-BJ

Appellant : Mr. D. Nagendra Prasad
H. No. HIG-67, 9th Phase, KPHB Colony, Near Park
Kukatpally, Hyderabad-500085

Respondent : i) CPIO & Income Tax Officer, Ward-6 (5), I T
Towers, 7th Floor, A.C. Guards,
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

ii) CPIO & Dy. Commissioner of Income Tax,
Circle-6(1)
IT Towers, 7th Floor, A C Guards, Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh

Date of Hearing : 10.04.2017
Date of Decision : 10.04.2017

Date of filing of RTI application 21.09.2015
CPIO’s response 28.09.2015 and 28.10.2015
Date of filing the First Appeal 27.10.2015
First Appellate Authority’s response 30.10.2015
Date of diarised receipt of second appeal by 18.03.2016
the Commission

ORDER

FACTS:

The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 9 points regarding Income Tax on Capital Gain earned by one Mr. D. Ramachandra Rao by selling land and house and issues related thereto.

The Dy. Commissioner of Income Tax, Circle 6 (1), Hyderabad vide its letter dated 28.09.2015, transferred the RTI application under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, 2005 to the ITO, Ward 6 (5), Hyderabad. Dissatisfied on not receiving any satisfactory response, the Appellant approached the FAA. Subsequently, the ITO, Ward 6 (5), vide its letter dated 28.10.2015 denied disclosure of information as per section 8 (1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005 stating that disclosure would cause unwarranted invasion to the privacy of the concerned assessee and no larger public interest was involved which would justify in acceding to the request of the Appellant. The FAA, vide its order dated 30.10.2015, provided a copy of the response of the CPIO dated 28.10.2015 and also stated 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.

HEARING:

Facts emerging during the hearing:

The following were present:

Appellant : Mr. D. Nagendra Prasad (M: 9581778748) through VC; Respondent : Mr. D. Madhu, ITO Ward 6(5) (M: 8985970514) through VC;

The Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that no information has been provided to him, till date. It was further stated that the CPIO vide its letter dated 28.10.2015 had denied disclosure of information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act,2005 and the FAA vide its order dated 30.10.2015 denied the information under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act,2005. The Respondent submitted that the third party consent was sought as per the provision of Section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005 whereby the concerned Third Party vide its letter dated 27.10.2015 denied disclosing its personal information. The Appellant stated that the FAA vide another detailed order dated 17.12.2015 denied disclosure of information, upholding the reply of the CPIO. At this stage, each of the grounds mentioned by the Appellant were examined, analyzed and addressed by the FAA. The Appellant explained that the ITR details of the concerned party was sought as the matter was related to Revenue to the Government towards Capital Gains Tax. In the Second Appeal filed by the Appellant, through its various annexures he had supported the need for information and rebutted the grounds relied upon by the CPIO/FAA for denial of information. The Respondent submitted that documents/evidences pertaining to the said matter could be filed by the Appellant in the IT Department and due necessary action would be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the IT Act, 1961 but the ITR details of the concerned third party as sought by the Appellant in his RTI application could not be disclosed under the RTI Act, 2005.

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The FAA referred to the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs. Central Information Commission & ors. SLP(C) No. 27734 of 2012 dated 03/10/2012 wherein it was held as under:

“14. The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”

Also The Hon’ble High Court in its decision dated 13/07/2012 (W.P. (C) No. 1243 of 2011- UPSC vs. R.K. Jain) wherein while discussing on the issue of disclosure of information in larger public interest the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had held as under:

“20. The term “personal information” under section 8(1)(j) does not mean information relating to the information seeker, or the public authority, but about a third party. The section exempts from disclosure personal information, including that which would cause “unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual”. If one were to seek information about himself, the question of invasion of his own privacy would not arise. It would only arise where the information sought relates to a third party. Consequently, the exemption under Section 8(1)(j) is as regards third party personal information only.

37….. In light of the above discussion, the following principles emerge for the exemption under Section 8(1)(j) to apply (i) The information sought must relate to “Personal information‟ as understood above of a third party. Therefore, if the information sought does not qualify as personal information, the exemption would not apply; (ii) Such personal information should relate to a third person, i.e., a person other than the information seeker or the public authority”

The FAA also referred to Hon’ble Supreme Court decision in Khanapuram Gandaiah vs Administrative Officer & Ors SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO.34868 OF 2009 ( Decided on 4 January, 2010) wherein it was held as under:

“7. Moreover, in the instant case, the petitioner submitted his application under Section 6 of the RTI Act before the Administrative Officer-cum- Assistant State Public Information Officer seeking information in respect of the questions raised in his application. However, the Public Information Officer is not supposed to have any material which is not before him; or any information he could have obtained under law. Under Section 6 of the RTI Act, an applicant is entitled to get only such information which can be accessed by the “public authority” under any other law for the time being in force. The answers sought by the petitioner in the application could not have been with the public authority nor could he have had access to this information and Respondent No. 4 was not obliged to give any reasons as to why he had taken such a decision in the matter which was before him. A judge cannot be expected to give reasons other than those that have been enumerated in the judgment or order. The application filed by the petitioner before the public authority is per se illegal and unwarranted. A judicial officer is entitled to get protection and the object of the same is not to protect malicious or corrupt judges, but to protect the public from the dangers to which the administration of justice would be exposed if the concerned judicial officers were subject to inquiry as to malice, or to litigation with those whom their decisions might offend. If anything is done contrary to this, it would certainly affect the independence of the judiciary. A judge should be free to make independent decisions.”

The Appellant was not able to contest the submissions of the Respondent or to establish the larger public interest in disclosure which outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

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The Commission drew reference to the decision of CIC in Milap Choraria v. CBDT CIC/AT/A/2008/000628 dated 15.06.2009 can be cited wherein it had been held as under:

“15. From the above discussion, it would appear that the Income Tax Returns have been rightly held to be ‘personal information’ exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of section 8(1) of RTI Act by the CPIO and the Appellate Authority; and the appellant herein has not been able to establish that a larger public interest would be served by disclosure of this information.”

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the decision of Naresh Kumar Trehan v. Rakesh Kumar Gupta in W.P.(C) 85/2010 & CM Nos.156/2010 & 5560/2011 dated 24.11.2014 had observed as under:

“25. Indisputably, Section 8(1)(j) of the Act would be applicable to the information pertaining to Dr Naresh Trehan (petitioner in W.P.(C) 88/2010) and the information contained in the income tax returns would be personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act. However, the CIC directed disclosure of information of Dr Trehan also by concluding that income tax returns and information provided for assessment was in relation to a “public activity.” In my view, this is wholly erroneous and unmerited. The act of filing returns with the department cannot be construed as public activity. The expression “public activity” would mean activities of a public nature and not necessarily act done in compliance of a statute. The expression “public activity” would denote activity done for the public and/or in some manner available for participation by public or some section of public. There is no public activity involved in filing a return or an individual pursuing his assessment with the income tax authorities. In this view, the information relating to individual assessee could not be disclosed. Unless, the CIC held that the same was justified “in the larger public interest”

Furthermore, The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in the decision of Shailesh Gandhi v. CIC and Ors WP 8753 of 2013 dated 06.05.2015 had held as under “16……the said contention is thoroughly misconceived as filing of Income Tax 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 sincethesaidinformation is held by the Income Tax Department in a fiduciary c apacity, the same cannot be directed to be revealed unless the prerequisites for the same are satisfied.

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23………..Since the right to privacy has been recognised as a fundamental eight to which a citizen is entitled to, therefore unless the conditions mentioned in Section 8 (1) (j) is satisfied, the information cannot be provided.”

DECISION Keeping in light the facts of the case and submissions made by both the parties and in light of the afore-mentioned judgments, no further intervention of the Commission is warranted in this matter.

The Appeal stands disposed accordingly.

(Bimal Julka) Information Commissioner Authenticated True Copy:

(K.L.Das) Deputy Registrar

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