CIC: A person has the right to know the status of investigation on his TEP application

Central Information Commission: The CIC has held that a person has right to know the status of investigation on his Tax Evasion Petition (TEP) application but not the details as it may hamper the investigation process.

The appellant vide his RTI application had sought information regarding the current status on his TEP application made in 2013 against a person along with the investigation report, if the investigation reached to its finality. Being dissatisfied with the information, he approached FAA which provided additional information and then appealed further.

On perusal of the records, it was observed that the CPIO/FAA had given a suitable reply to the appellant informing that the investigation in the matter was in progress and disclosure of any information pertaining to investigation was likely to hamper the investigation process.

The appellant referred to the judgement in Bhagat Singh v. CIC, 2007 SCC OnLine Del 1607 in which it reversed the direction of the CIC stating that the information needs to be released only after the investigation and recovery in complete. Delhi HC held that Section 8(1)(j) relates only to investigation and prosecution and not to recovery. Court had observed that recovery in tax matters, in the usual circumstances is a time consuming affair, and to withhold information till that eventuality, after the entire proceedings, despite the ruling that investigations are not hampered by information disclosure, is illogical.

The Commission noted its decision in Shri Virag R. Dhulia v. Income Tax Department, Kolkata, CIC/LS/A/2009/001179 dated 18.02.2010 where it said that investigation into a TEP could not be allowed to go on ad-infinitum and it should be concluded in a reasonable time frame where after the broad outcome thereof needs to be communicated to the appellant i.e. whether the allegations made in the TEP were fully true, partially true or untrue. No further information needs to be disclosed at that stage. Commission referred to its order dated 18/06/2013 in Ved Prakash Doda v. ITO, CIC/RM/A/2012/000926 wherein it held in respect of a tax evasion petition, that once the investigation is completed, the appellant should be informed the broad results of the investigation, without disclosing any details.

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by the Appellant, the Commission instructed the respondent to inform the updated status of the investigation. [Vikas Jain v. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCA), Delhi, Appeal No. CIC/KVSAN/A/2017/117981-BJ, order dated 11-06-2018]

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