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Generic details of the gross income of wife held and available with the Public Authority needs to be shared to the husband

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

Second Appeal No.(s):- CIC/CCITH/A/2018/123689-BJ+
CIC/CCITP/A/2018/636525-BJ

Mr. Vikrant Banode/Appellant

VERSUS

1. CPIO
Director General of Income Tax (Inv.),
Office of the Director General of Income Tax (Inv.),
Aayakar Bhawan, Opp. L B Stadium
Basheerbagh – 500004, Hyderabad
2. CPIO
DCIT (Hq.) (Admn.)
Office of the Pr. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCA)
Aayakar Bhawan, 12, Sadhu Vaswani Rd, Pune
Maharashtra – 411037
3. CPIO
Income Tax Officer, Ward 7(3), Pune
60/61, Praptikar Sadan, Dr Dhananjay Gadgi Road,
Erandwana, Bharati Niwas Colony,
Deccan Gymkhana, Pune, Maharashtra 411004… /Respondent

Date of Hearing : 11.11.2019
Date of Decision : 13.11.2019

O R D E R

RTI – I File No. CIC/CCITH/A/2018/123689-BJ
Date of RTI application 27.10.2017
24.01CPIO’s response 22.11.2017
Date of the First Appeal 14.12.2017

First Appellate Authority’s response Not on record
Date of diarised receipt of Appeal by the Commission 13.04.2018

FACTS:

The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding the earning of his spouse Ms. Neeti Banode (PAN details/date of birth: as mentioned in the RTI application), etc. The Appellant enclosed a copy of an e-mail dated 22.11.2017 received from Online RTI Team ([email protected]), wherein it was mentioned that “ the information you are looking for is “Third Party” information” and through RTI we cannot ask “Third Party Information”. The Appellant in his First Appeal mentioned that the information sought by him was refused by the CPIO of Public Authority. The order of the FAA, if any, is not on the record of the Commission.

RTI – II File No. CIC/CCITP/A/2018/636525-BJ
Date of RTI application 16.06.2018
24.01CPIO’s response 13.07.2018,
25.07.2018
Date of the First Appeal 23.09.2018
First Appellate Authority’s response 27.09.2018
(Appeal fwd to concerned FAA)
Date of diarised receipt of Appeal by the Commission Nil

FACTS:
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 07 points regarding one Ms. Neeti Banode, her posting details, whether she was working under Salary Class; if in business, the nature of the business; salary drawn by her; her movable/ immovable assets and issues related thereto.

The CPIO, DGIT (Inv), Hyderabad, vide its response dated 13.07.2018 transferred the RTI application to the Directorate General of Tax payer Services which was in turn transferred to the Pr. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCA), Mumbai, vide response dated 25.07.2018. Subsequently, the Pr. CCIT (CCA), Mumbai, vide its response dated 25.07.2018 transferred the RTI application to the Pr. CCIT (CCA) Pune. Dissatisfied due to non-receipt of any response, the Appellant approached the FAA. The FAA, Pr. CCIT (CCA) Pune, vide its response dated 27.09.2018 transferred the First Appeal to the concerned FAA whose details were not mentioned in the reply.

HEARING:
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Vijay Kishorilal Banode Appellant’s father, through VC;
Respondent: Mrs. Ch. Naga Prabha, Income Tax Officer (Hqs.), Hyderabad through VC;

The Appellant’s representative reiterated the contents of the RTI applications and stated that his son due to marital dispute was seeking details in respect of his estranged wife Ms. Neeti Banode whose PAN details were available with the IT Department. The Respondent at Hyderabad categorically stated that the PAN number mentioned above rested within the jurisdiction of Income Tax Officer, Ward 7(3), Pune (Assessing officer) and therefore further action needs to be initiated by them only. The Respondent, Pune, remained absent during the hearing.

The Commission was in receipt of a written submission from the Respondent dated 04.11.2019 (Appeal No. CIC/CCITH/A/2018/123689-BJ) wherein it was submitted that the RTI application was stated to have been filed with Director General of Income Tax (Inv.), Hyderabad, vide RTI request registration number dated 27.10.2017. However, as seen from the “RTI request and Appeal Management Information System (RTI-MIS)” of CPIO, O/o DGIT (Inv.), Hyderabad, there was no RTI application by that name. The screen shot of online applications filed, till date along with the status was enclosed for kind perusal. Furthermore, it was submitted that there was no data available on the RTI requests received for the given period in the code of ITO (HQ), CPIO, O/o DGIT (Inv.), Hyderabad pertaining to the Applicant (copy of the same was enclosed).

Furthermore, the mail ID as mentioned/referred to in the status is personal mail ID which was not used for official communication by the CPIO. Their official webmail is [email protected] Their Office is no way related to [email protected] from which mail the applicant had stated to have been received the reply to the RTI application filed by him. Furthermore, it was informed that the Central Processing Centre (CPC), Bangalore and the Assessing Officers having jurisdiction over the cases are the custodians of the Income Tax Returns. The details of the information like the Income tax Returns etc. in the instant case for PAN (as stated) sought by the applicant are available with the Income Tax Officer, Ward 7(3), Pune (Assessing officer) since the jurisdiction over the said PAN lies with said Assessing Officer. Without prejudice to the above, the O/o the DGIT (Inv), Hyderabad is covered by exemption clause u/s 24(1) of the RTI Act, 2005. Further, the information sought by the Appellant will not serve any larger public interest as per the provisions of Section 8 of the RTI Act 2005. Meanwhile, the copy of notice of hearing for Appeal/Complaint along with enclosures seeking the information sought by the Appellant in the original application which is the subject matter of the Appeal before the Commission, New Delhi were forwarded to the Income Tax Officer Ward 7(3), Pune (Assessing officer) as the jurisdiction over the case vests with them.

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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.”

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.”

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 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.”

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However, making a distinction with the said judgment, the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of M.P. in the matter of Smt. Sunita Jain vs. Pawan Kumar Jain and others W.A. No. 168/2015 and Smt. Sunita Jain vs. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and others W.A. No. 170/2015 dated 15.05.2018 had in a matter where the information seeker had sought the salary details of her husband from the employer held as under:

“While dealing with the Section 8(1)(j) of the Act, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the
appellant and the respondent No.1 are husband and wife and as a wife she is entitled to
know what remuneration the respondent No.1 is getting.

Present case is distinguishable from the case of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande (supra)
and therefore the law laid down by their Lordships in the case of Girish Ramchandra
Deshpande (supra) are not applicable in the present case.

In view of the foregoing discussion, we allow the appeal and set aside the order passed
by the Writ Court in W.P. No.341/2008. Similarly, the W.A. No.170/2015 is also allowed
and the impugned order passed in W.P. No.1647/2008 is set aside.”

In several similar matters, the Commission had adjudicated its decision in accordance with the aforesaid judgment.

As regards the information sought regarding personal details of Ms. Neeti Banode, the Commission observed that the same fell in the category of Third Party information which was exempted from disclosure as per Section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005. In this regard, the Commission referred to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the matter of Canara Bank Rep. by its Deputy Gen. Manager v. C.S. Shyam, Civil Appeal No. 22 of 2009 dated 31.08.2017 wherein it was held as under:

“5) The information was sought on 15 parameters with regard to various aspects of
transfers of clerical staff and staff of the Bank with regard to individual employees.
This information was in relation to the personal details of individual employee such as
the date of his/her joining, designation, details of promotion earned, date of his/her
joining to the Branch where he/she is posted, the authorities who issued the transfer
orders etc. etc

11) Having heard the learned counsel for the appellant and on perusal of the record of
the case, we are inclined to allow the appeal, set aside the impugned order and dismiss
the application submitted by the 1st respondent under Section 6 of the Act.

12) In our considered opinion, the issue involved herein remains no more res integra and
stands settled by two decisions of this Court in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs.
Central Information Commissioner & Ors., (2013) 1 SCC 212 and R.K. Jain vs. Union of
India & Anr., (2013) 14 SCC 794, 5 it may not be necessary to re-examine any legal issue
urged in this appeal.

14) In our considered opinion, the aforementioned principle of law applies to the facts of
this case on all force. It is for the reasons that, firstly, the information sought by
respondent No.1 of individual employees working in the Bank was personal in nature;
secondly, it was exempted from being disclosed under Section 8(j) of the Act and lastly,
neither respondent No.1 disclosed any public interest much less larger public interest
involved in seeking such information of the individual employee and nor any finding was
recorded by the Central Information Commission and the High Court as to the
involvement of any larger public interest in supplying such information to respondent
No.1.”

Furthermore, the Commission 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:

“13……The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter
between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the
service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of
which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the
disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual. Of
course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public
Information Officer of the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest
justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the
petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right.”

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the case of Union Public Service Commission v. Dr. Mahesh Mangalat (Date of Decision: 17th March, 2015) (W.P.(C) No. 7431/2011) had held:-

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“18. Prior to the enactment of the RTI Act, access to any information pertaining to public
authorities was correlated to the locus standi of the requestor. In other words, it was
necessary for the information-seeker to show why he/she wanted the information before a
decision could be made to give or not to give the information sought by him. With the
enactment of the RTI Act this requirement has been changed drastically. The present Act
abolishes the concept of locus standi as under section 6(2) of the RTI Act no reasons
need to be given for seeking information. However, this restriction on disclosure of
reasons cannot be misconstrued to mean that any information pertaining to a public
authority or its employees is public information.

19. It is a settled law that for seeking personal information regarding any employee of the public authority the applicant must disclose a “sustainable public interest. Even Section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act was enacted to ensure that all information furnished to public authorities including personal information is not given free access to. As per this Section unless the CPIO or the State PIO or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies, the disclosure of any such information that invades the privacy of an individual is not permissible.

Moreover, the Commission relied on the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Bihar Public Service Commission v. Saiyed Hussain Abbas Rizwi: (2012) 13 SCC 61 wherein in the context of exemption under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Court had held that exemption provided under Section 8 of the Act is the rule and only in exceptional circumstances of larger public interest the information would be disclosed. The relevant observations are mentioned as under:

“22. The expression “public interest” has to be understood in its true connotation so as
to give complete meaning to the relevant provisions of the Act. The expression “public
interest” must be viewed in its strict sense with all its exceptions so as to justify denial
of a statutory exemption in terms of the Act. In its common parlance, the expression
“public interest”, like “public purpose”, is not capable of any precise definition. It
does not have a rigid meaning, is elastic and takes its colour from the statute in which
it occurs, the concept varying with time and state of society and its needs (State of
Bihar v. Kameshwar Singh [AIR 1952 SC 252] ). It also means the general welfare of
the public that warrants recognition and protection; something in which the public as a
whole has a stake [Black’s Law Dictionary (8th Edn.)].

23. The satisfaction has to be arrived at by the authorities objectively and the
consequences of such disclosure have to be weighed with regard to the circumstances of
a given case. The decision has to be based on objective satisfaction recorded for ensuring
that larger public interest outweighs unwarranted invasion of privacy or other factors
stated in the provision.”

The Appellant’s representative could not contest the submissions of the Respondent or to establish the larger public interest in disclosure which outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

DECISION:

Keeping in view the facts of tCIC-CCITH-A-2018-123689 & CIC-CCITP-A-2018-636525-BJhe case and the submissions made by both the parties, the

Commission directs the CPIO, ITO, Ward 7(3), Pune, to inform the Appellant about the generic details of the gross annual income of his wife (Ms. Neeti Banode) held and available with the Public Authority respecting the decision of the Division Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur in Smt. Sunita Jain v. Pawan Kumar Jain W.A. No. 168/2015 and Smt. Sunita Jain v. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited W.A. No. 170/2015 dated 15.05.2018, within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. The Respondent, Office of the Director General of Income Tax (Inv.), Hyderabad was however, advised to endorse a copy of their written submission dated 04.11.2019 sent to the Commission to the Appellant, as well. No further intervention of the Commission is required in the matter. For redressal of his grievance, the Appellant is advised to approach an appropriate forum.

The Appeals stand disposed accordingly.
(Bimal Julka)
(Information Commissioner)
Authenticated true copy

(K.L. Das) (..)
(Dy. Registrar) (-)
011-26182598/ [email protected]
/ Date: 13.11.2019

Copy to:
1. The Pr. CCIT (CCA), Pune, Office of the Pr. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCA)
Aayakar Bhawan, 12, Sadhu Vaswani Rd, Pune, Maharashtra – 411037
2. The First Appellate Authority & Addl. CIT, Range-7, 60/61, Praptikar Sadan,
Dr Dhananjay Gadgi Road, Erandwana, Bharati Niwas Colony, Deccan Gymkhana,Pune, Maharashtra 411004

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