Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Neeraj Kumar Gupta (Information Commissioner) decided whether disclosure of income tax returns of the husband to wife under RTI Act is permissible or not.

Appellant had filed an application before the CPIO, Income Tax, Jodhpur seeking information with regard to the income tax returns filed by Mohammed Rafique for the period of 2017 to 2018.

Being dissatisfied from non-provision of the requested information, the appellant approached the Commission by filing a second appeal under Section 19(3) of the Right to Information Act.

Decision

Commission on perusal of the records observed that the information sought by the appellant regarding the copies of income tax return of her husband, etc. is personal information of the third party which cannot be disclosed under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

Further, the Commission referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commission, SLP (C) No. 27734 of 2012, decided on 03-10-2012wherein it was held that:

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.”

However, the Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Sunita Jain v. Pawan Kumar Jain, 2018 SCC OnLine MP 373 and Sunita Jain v. BSNL, WA No. 170 of 2015, decided on 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.”

Bombay High Court’s decision in Rajesh Ramachandra Kidile v. Maharashtra SIC, WP No. 1766 of 2016, dated on 22-10-2018.

In view of the above-stated analysis and the judgments of the Higher Courts, the Commission directed the respondent to inform the appellant about the generic details of the net taxable income/gross income of her husband held and available with Public Authority for the period of 2017-18, within a period of 15 working days from the date of receipt of this order.

In view of the above observations, the appeal was disposed of. [Rahmat Bano v. CPIO, 2020 SCC OnLine CIC 1119, decided on 06-11-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): While observing that information regarding the premises and functioning of a branch of the bank cannot be regarded as the personal information of any third party individual, CIC directed the officials of Avadi Branch of Bank of India to provide the said information to the applicant.

Earlier, an RTI application was filed by the President of a consumer organization in Tamil Nadu seeking information on twelve points regarding the establishment and functioning of Bank of India’s Avadi Branch, including information like the number of staff posted at the time of opening of the branch and the present staff strength category wise, area and space provided for each staff member and customers as well as number of counters, whether the bank was functioning in its own building or rented building, if rented building, name of the land lord, rent fixed, electricity charges paid etc. The application was dismissed on the ground that the information sought was personal information relating to a third party. An appeal in the matter was also dismissed by the First Appellate Authority on the same grounds.

Not satisfied with the replies given by the officials of Avadi Branch of Bank of India, applicant approached CIC stating that the information sought was not personal information, but related to the functioning of the bank. Apart from reiterating the same grounds, Bank of India also stated before CIC that the information concerns a lease arrangement, electricity charges being paid by the bank and counters etc. of the bank and cannot be provided to the applicant.

After hearing both the parties, CIC observed that, “the CPIO was wrong in denying the information under Section 8(1)(j), as the information sought by the appellant cannot be regarded as the personal information of any third party individual, but relates to the premises and functioning of a branch of the bank. Further, no case has been made out by the respondents for denial of the information.” However, CIC further directed that the information regarding the strong room of the bank, including its area and location etc. was not to be disclosed. [T. Sadagopan v. Bank of India, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 359, decided on January 27, 2017]