IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
SUBJECT : INCOME TAX MATTER
Date of decision : 17th December, 2007
DIRECTOR OF INCOME TAX (INVESTIGATION)
AND ANOTHER ….. Appellant
Through Ms.Sonia Mathur with Mr.Pankaj Prasad, Advocates
BHAGAT SINGH and ANR ….. Respondents Through nemo
CORAM:HON’BLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SANJIV KHANNA,DR. MUKUNDAKAM SHARMA, CJ (oral)
CM No.17356/2007 (exemption)
Allowed, subject to just exceptions.
LPA No.1377/2007 and CM No.17355/2007 (stay)
1.This appeal is directed against the order dated 3rd December, 2007 whereby the
learned Single Judge has allowed the writ petition with a direction to the Income
Tax Department to supply the information sought by the respondent No.1 herein.
2.The writ petition was filed by the respondent No.1 herein praying for quashing of
the order of the Central Information Commission with a direction that the
information sought by the respondents under the Right to Information Act, 2005
should be supplied immediately.
3.The respondent No.1 herein was married in 2000 to Smt.Saroj Nirmal, who in
November, 2000 filed a criminal complaint alleging that she had spent / paid as
dowry an amount of Rs.ten lacs. Alleging that the aforesaid claims are false, the
respondent No.1, in order to enable him to defend the criminal prosecution,
approached the Income Tax Department with a Tax Evasion Petition (TEP) dated
24th September, 2003. However, the Department summoned the wife of the
respondent No.1 to present her case before them. The respondent No.1 made
repeated requests to the Director of Income Tax Department (Investigation) to
ascertain and know the status of the hearing and TEP proceedings.
4.Having failed in his endeavour, the respondent No.1 moved an application under
the Right to Information Act in November, 2005 praying for the following
information: “(i)Fate of Petitioner’s complaint (tax evasion petition) dated
24.09.2003. (ii)What is the other source of income of petitioner’s wife Smt.Saroj
Nirmal than from teaching as a primary teacher in a private school” (iii)What
action the Department had taken against Smt.Saroj Nirmal after issuing a notice u/s
131 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, pursuant to the said Tax Evasion Petition.”
5.The aforesaid application filed by the respondent No.1 herein was rejected by the
Public Information Officer designated under the Act by the Income Tax
Department as against which an appeal was filed before the Appellate Authority,
which too rejected the request to have access to the aforesaid information. As
against the said order of the Appellate Authority, the respondent No.1 filed a
second appeal on 1st March, 2006 before the Central Information Commission
praying for setting aside the orders of the respondents No.2 and 3 in the writ
petition. The Central Information Commission by an order dated 8th May, 2006
allowed the second appeal and set aside the rejection of information. It was held by
the Central Information Commission that as the investigation on TEP has been
conducted by Director of Income Tax (Investigation) , the relevant report is the
outcome of public action and, therefore, the same is required to be disclosed.
However, it was directed that the report should be disclosed only after the entire
process of investigation and tax recovery, if any, is completed. The appellant /
Department has accepted the aforesaid order of the CIC and, therefore, the said
order of the CIC has become final and binding. However, the Department has not
disclosed all the information in terms of the aforesaid order on the plea that notices
under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 have been issued but no final
assessment orders have been passed. It is also stated that only after recovery of
taxes, if any, details could be furnished.
6.The learned Single Judge considered the pleas raised and thereafter it was held
that no reason has come out as to why the aforesaid information should not be
supplied to the respondent No.1 even at this stage. The learned Single Judge also
held that no reason has been given as to why and how the investigation process
could be said to be hampered if the aforesaid information is furnished and any
prejudice being caused or suffered by the Department. These findings are
challenged in this appeal on which we have heard learned counsel for the appellant.
7.On going through the records, we find that there is a categorical order of the
Central Information Commission directing that the aforesaid information should be
disclosed after the entire process of investigation and tax recovery, if any, is
complete in every respect. The contention and defence based upon Section 8(1)(i)
was rejected. The said direction and findings rejecting the plea under Section
8(1)(i) to disclose information has not been challenged by the appellant. The only
question is of the stage and whether information should be furnished at this stage.
There is no co-relation between the information required and recovery of taxes, if
any. Recovery of taxes has nothing to do with investigation on TEP.
8.Information sought for by the respondent No.1 relates to fate of his complaint
made in September, 2003, action taken thereon after recording of statement of
Ms.Saroj Nirmal and whether Ms.Saroj Nirmal has any other source of income,
other than teaching in a private school. This information can be supplied as
necessary investigation on these aspects has been undertaken during last four years
by the Director of Income Tax (Investigation) . In fact proceedings before the said
Director have drawn to a close and the matter is now with the ITO i.e. the
Assessing Officer. Under Section 8(1)(h) information can be withheld if it would
impede investigation, apprehension or prosecution of offenders. It is for the
appellant to show how and why investigation will be impeded by disclosing
information to the appellant. General statements are not enough. Apprehension
should be based on some ground or reason. Information has been sought for by the
complainant and not the assessee. Nature of information is not such which
interferes with the investigation or helps the assessee. Information may help the
respondent No.1 from absolving himself in the criminal trial. It appears that the
appellant has held back information and delaying the proceedings for which the
respondent No.1 felt aggrieved and filed the aforesaid writ petition in this Court.
We also find no reason as to why the aforesaid information should not be supplied
to the respondent No.1. In the grounds of appeal, it is stated that the appellant is
ready and willing to disclose all the records once the same is summoned by the
criminal court where proceedings under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code are
pending. If that is the stand of the appellant, we find no reason as to why the
aforesaid information cannot be furnished at this stage as the investigation process
is not going to be hampered in any manner and particularly in view of the fact that
such information is being furnished only after the investigation process is complete
as far as Director of Income Tax (Investigation) is concerned. It has not been
explained in what manner and how information asked for and directed will hamper
the assessment proceedings.
9.Therefore, no prejudice would be caused in any manner to the Department even
if the said information is disclosed. We find no merit in this appeal, which
accordingly stands dismissed. All other applications stand consequently disposed
of in terms of the aforesaid order.
10.Since the time for furnishing the information is expiring during the course of
the day, we extend time for furnishing of the information by one week, during
which the information shall be furnished in terms of the order of the learned Single Judge.
11.Copy of the order be given dasti to the counsel appearing for the appellant.
SANJIV KHANNA, J