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Disclose the Broad Outcome of the TEP Investigation in respect of the queries raised by the Appellant in his RTI

Central Information Commission
Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka , New Delhi – 110067

/ Second Appeal No.:- CIC/CCAKP/A/2018/127515-BJ

Mr. Shahab Hussen Khan…./Appellant

VERSUS

CPIO
ITO/CRUM/CPIO,
Office of the Pr. Director of Income Tax (Vigilance),
116/16, Bhargav Estate, Civil Lines
Kanpur – 208001… /Respondent

Date of Hearing : 19.11.2019
Date of Decision : 19.11.2019
Date of RTI application 15.09.2016
CPIO’s response 27.03.2017
Date of the First Appeal 24.03.2018
First Appellate Authority’s response 18.04.2018
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 on 02 points regarding the action taken on his representation dated 13.01.2016 regarding the Tax Evasion along with the details of the competent authority/dealing officer who is investigating the matter, etc.

The CPIO, vide its letter dated 27.03.2017 informed the Appellant that the tax evasion petition filed had been categorized into ‘Z’ category and that the same was forwarded to the Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, Aligarh vide their office letter dated 24.11.2016 for further necessary action at their end. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, vide its order dated 18.04.2018, provided a suitable response to the Appellant and further requested him to contact/correspond with the Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, Aligarh, for status of his TEP.

HEARING:
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Shahab Hussen Khan through VC;
Respondent: Mr. Narendra Singh, ITO / CPIO through VC;

The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that the information sought by him had not been received. In its reply, the Respondent clarified that the TEP filed by the Appellant had since been categorized in “Z” category and sent to the jurisdictional officer at Aligarh for further investigation and necessary action.

The Commission referred to the definition of information u/s 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005 which is reproduced below:

“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”

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Furthermore, a reference can also be made to the relevant extract of Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act, 2005 which reads as under:

“(j) right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which
is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes ……..”

In this context a reference was made to the Hon’ble Supreme Court decision in 2011 (8) SCC
497 (CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay), wherein it was held as under:

35….. “It is also not required to provide ‘advice’ or ‘opinion’ to an applicant, nor
required to obtain and furnish any ‘opinion’ or ‘advice’ to an applicant. The reference to
‘opinion’ or ‘advice’ in the definition of ‘information’ in section 2(f) of the Act, only
refers to such material available in the records of the public authority. Many public
authorities have, as a public relation exercise, provide advice, guidance and opinion to
the citizens. But that is purely voluntary and should not be confused with any obligation
under the RTI Act.”

Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Khanapuram Gandaiah Vs. Administrative Officer and Ors. Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.34868 OF 2009 (Decided on January 4, 2010) had held as under:

6. “….Under the RTI Act “information” is defined under Section 2(f) which provides:
“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report,
papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information
relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other
law for the time being in force.”

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This definition shows that an applicant under Section 6 of the RTI Act can get any
information which is already in existence and accessible to the public authority under
law. Of course, under the RTI Act an applicant is entitled to get copy of the opinions,
advices, circulars, orders, etc., but he cannot ask for any information as to why such
opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc. have been passed.”

7. “….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.”

The Commission also 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 held as
under:

“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.”

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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”

DECISION:
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, it was noted that in the matter at hand, the investigation was in progress. The Commission, however, instructs the Respondent, O/o the Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, Aligarh to disclose the Broad Outcome of the TEP/Investigation in respect of the queries raised by the Appellant in his RTI application as and when the investigation in the matter, gets 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: 19.11.2019
Copy to:
1. The Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, Aligarh, Office of the Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax, Aayakar Bhawan, Marris Road, Aligarh-202001

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