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Broad outcome of the TEP investigation to be disclosed to the Appellant as soon as the investigation is completed.

Central Information Commission

Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka
New Delhi – 110067

/ Second Appeal No.:- CIC/CCITJ/A/2018/127390-BJ

Mr. Pradeep Vidhani…./Appellant

VERSUS

CPIO/ITO
Ward – 1(5), Office of the Income Tax officer
Room No. 67, Aayakar Bhawan, Paota C Road Jodhpur – 342001 … /Respondent

Date of Hearing : 18.11.2019
Date of Decision : 22.11.2019
Date of RTI application 11.02.2018
CPIO’s response 14.03.2018
Date of the First Appeal 19.03.2018
First Appellate Authority’s response 12.04.2018
Date of diarised receipt of Appeal by the Commission 02.05.2018

O R D E R

FACTS:
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the TEP/ Complaint filed by him against M/s Priyadarshini Polysacks Ltd., Kolhapur.

The CPIO, vide its letter dated 14.03.2018 denied disclosure of information u/s 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dissatisfied by the response, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 12.04.2018, concurred with the response of the CPIO.

HEARING:
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Absent;
Respondent: Mr. Pooranmal Raigar, ITO through VC;

The Appellant remained absent during the hearing. The NIC representative and the Respondent present at the hearing confirmed the absence of the Appellant. In the meanwhile, the Commission was in receipt of an e-mail from the Appellant dated 18.11.2019 at 12.11 PM wherein he stated that the hearing scheduled for 11:50 AM concluded before time which was against the principles of natural justice since he was not given an opportunity of hearing. The Commission referred to the contents of Para 8 of the notice of hearing dated 24.10.2019 instructing the parties concerned to reach the venue at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time of hearing which the Appellant failed to comply with. However, the Commission heard the matter as scheduled. The Respondent while explaining the background of the matter submitted that a suitable reply was provided by the CPIO/FAA claiming exemption under Section 8(1) (h) of the RTI Act, 2005. In addition, it was informed that the Applicant had sought information in respect of a complaint/tax evasion petition filed by him on CPGRAM against M/s Priyadarshani Polysacks Limited, Kolhapur, which is under investigation.

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The Commission was in receipt of a written submission from the Appellant dated 07.11.2019 wherein it was submitted that the information sought by him had been wrongly and malafidely denied by the Respondent Public Authority which was in contravention to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. Moreover, the First Appellate Authority had decided the matter without offering an opportunity for hearing. A reference was also made to the decision of the Commission in Appeal Number 22/ICA/2016 in the matter of Farida Hoosenally vs. the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax-IX, Mumbai dated 30.03.2006 in support of his contention. Furthermore, Section 20(1) of the RTI Act, 2005, was referred to by the Appellant for imposition of penalty in case of delay in reply. Therefore, it was prayed to the Commission to impose penalty on the erring FAA for not providing him an opportunity of hearing at First Appeal stage as also requested for compensation for mental harassment and financial loss along with the information sought by him in his RTI application.

The Commission referred to the order dated 18/06/2013 (File No. CIC/RM/A/2012/000926 Sh. Ved Prakash Doda v/s ITO) wherein it was held as under:

“6. It has been the stand of the Commission that in respect of a tax evasion petition, once
the investigation is completed, the appellant should be informed the broad results of the
investigation, without disclosing any details. The appellant has a right to know as to
whether the information provided by him was found to be true or false.”

While relying on the aforementioned decision of the Commission in the matter of Ved Prakash Doda, the Commission in Mohd Naeem Ahmed vs. CPIO, ITO, CRU, New Delhi and CPIO, ITO, Ward 56 (1), New Delhi in CIC/CC/A/2015/004382/BS/10949 dated 29.07.2016 which held as under:

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“In the matter at hand investigation/assessment is in progress. The CPIO/ITO Ward 56(1)
should disclose the broad outcome of the TEP to the appellant as soon as the assessment
is completed.”

The aforementioned decision was upheld by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Mohd. Naeem Ahmed vs. Director of Income Tax and Ors, WP (C) 1112/2018 dated 27.03.2019. The relevant extracts of the order are mentioned hereunder:

“3. Mr. Bharat Bhushan Bhatia, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner, during his
arguments stated that he would be satisfied if the petitioner is informed the ultimate
outcome of the investigation / assessment. It goes without saying that in terms of the
direction of the CIC, the CPIO / ITO of the Ward concerned is / are required to disclose
the broad outcome of the TEP to the petitioner herein. There is no reason to disbelieve
that they shall not disclose the same after the investigation / assessment is over.
4. Mr. Zoheb Hossain, learned Senior Standing Counsel appearing for the respondents
assures the Court that the said procedure shall be followed in this case. Taking the
statement on record, I am of the view no further orders are required to be passed in this
writ petition”

The Commission observed that similar matters had been heard and adjudicated by it in Appeal No.:-CIC/CCITM/A/2017/131266-BJ + CIC/CCITM/A/2017/154219-BJ dated 11.07.2018; CIC/BS/A/2016/002098-BJ dated 06.02.2018, Appeal No.:-CIC/CCITB/A/2016/290776-BJ dated 27.07.2017, Appeal No.:-CIC/DITIN/A/2016/304232-BJ-Final dated 17.07.2017; Appeal No.:-CIC/DITIN/A/2016/304233-BJ-Final dated 17.07.2017 and Appeal No. CIC/BS/A/2015/002270 dated 07.03.2017.

With regard to imposition of penalty on the FAA, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of R.K. Jain vs Union of India, LPA No. 369/2018, dated 29.08.2018, held as under:

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“9 The Appellate Authority is not the custodian of the information or the document. It is
only a statutory authority to take a decision on an appeal with regard the tenability or
otherwise of the action of the CPIO and, therefore, there is a conscious omission in
making the Appellate Authority liable for a penal action under Section 20 of the RTI Act
and if that be the scheme of the Act and the legislative intention, we see no error in the
order passed by the learned writ Court warranting reconsideration.”

DECISION: In the light of the facts available on record and the submissions made by the Respondent, and considering the decisions cited above, the Commission instructs the Respondent to disclose the broad outcome of the investigation to the Appellant as soon as the investigation is completed. The Appeal stands disposed accordingly.

(Bimal Julka)
(Information Commissioner)
Authenticated true copy

(K.L. Das) (..)
(Dy. Registrar) (-)
011-26182598/ kl.das@nic.in
/ Date: 22.11.2019

Copy to:
1. The Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, O/o Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, 1st Floor,Aayakar Bhawan, Paota C Road, Jodhpur – 342001

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