Case Law Details
Case Name : Shailesh Ghandhi Vs (1) Central Information Commissioner (2) CPIO, ACIT, Circle 18 (2) (3) Shri Ajit A Pawar, Dy. CM, Maharastra, (Bombay High Court)
Appeal Number : WP No. 8753/2013
Date of Judgement/Order : 11/06/2015
Related Assessment Year :
Issue before Court:
The sole issue in the present writ petition is whether information related to income-tax returns of politician can be provided to any individual in purview of proviso of section 8 (1) (j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Whether the petitioner is entitled to the information he sought under Right to Information Act and whether such information falls within the exempted category under section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act.
- Petitioner is an RTI Activist and is a former Central Information Commissioner. Presently working as Chairman of technical advisory committee set up by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
- Petitioner filed an application under section 6 of RTI Act to CPIO, Income-tax Department requesting him to supply information more particularly the Income-tax returns and balance sheets of Sh. Ajit A Pawar, Dy. CM, Maharastra i.e. Respondent No. 3 who is a third party.
- On receipt of such application CPIO sent a letter to respondent no. 3 in terms of section 11 of the RTI Act and respondent no. 3 filed reply objecting disclosure of any information.
- CPIO after receipt of such reply from respondent no. 3 denied the said information to the petitioner and held that said information has no relationship to any public activity or interest and therefore does not qualify in terms of proviso of section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act.
- Petitioner thereafter appealed to first appellate authority on the ground that exemption u/s 8 (1) (j) does not apply. The appeal was dismissed by holding that information related to ITR is personal in nature and stands exempted from disclosure under section 8 (1) (j). The first appellate authority relied upon judgment of Apex Court in matter of Girish Ramchandra Deshpande Vs CIC (2013) 1 Supreme Court Cases 212.
- Aggrived from the order of First Appellate authority petitioner filed appeal before Central Information Commission. Petitioner in the second appeal relied upon the judgement of Apex Courts in the matters of R. Rajgopal alias RR Gopal & Anrs Vs. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors (1994) 6 Supreme Court Cases 632 and Union of India Vs. Association for Democratic Reforms & Anr.(ADR) (2002)5 Supreme Court Cases 294. Ground was taken in the appeal that Apex Court while deciding case of Girish Deshpandey ignored law laid down in both the cases and also ignored provision of section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act.
- CIC upheld orders passed by CPIO and First Appellate Authority.
Contention of the revenue:
- Petitioner has failed to discharge the burden which would entitle him to the information sought. Reliance was placed on the judgment of Apex Court in matter of Bihar Public Service Commission Vs. Syed Hussian Abbas Rizvi & Anr (2012) 13 SCC 61.
- Information sought in form of ITR has no relation with any public activity of respondent no. 3.
- The Apex court in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande’s case (Supra) which has been reiterated by the Apex Court in the case of R.K.Jain Vs. Union of India & ANR. (2013)14 Supreme Court Cases 794 , the information relating to ITR falls within the exempted category under section 8 (1) (j) and since no case of public interest has been made out by the petitioner, the said information cannot be provided.
- The Right to Information Act is a self contained code and unless public interest is made out that the public interest outweighs the right to privacy of respondent no. 3, the information sought by the petitioner cannot be provided.
- The parliament has its own rule of business and it cannot be presumed that information in respect of ITR of a member of state legislature would be sought.
- The election commission in the interest of conducting free and fair election have power to issue appropriate direction. However since the election commission has not provided for filing of ITR the said information cannot be sought by having recourse to the Right of Information Act on the ground that information is to be compared with the information filed at the time of nomination.
Contention of assessee:
- All the three authorities below have failed to appreciate that filing of ITR is a public activity and is a matter of public interest and hence privacy of the respondent no. 3 is not breached if the ITRs are not provided to the applicant.
- That section 8 (1) (j) itself postulates that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of the information sought by the applicant then the said information has to be provided.
- That the judgment in Girish Ramchandra Despande’s case does not lay down any proposition of law and therefore cannot be applied.
- That the authorities below ignored proviso of section 8 (1) (j) which said that the information which cannot be denied to parliament or the state legislature cannot be denied at any citizen. Divison Bench of Bombay High Court in case of Surup Singh Naik Vs State of Maharashtra AIR 2007 Bom 121 have laid down the same law.
- That the disclosure of the information is in larger public interest has been demonstrated by the petitioner by making out a case in the appeal namely that the same would amount to reducing corruption and increasing the faith in the elected representatives.
Held by the Court:
- The petitioner wants to proceed on the hypothesis that the information sought by him cannot be denied to Parliament. In so far as Parliament is concerned, it has its own rules of business and it therefore cannot be presumed that the information in respect of I-T returns of a member of Legislature would be sought.
- The proviso to section 8 (1) (j) cannot be sought to be interpreted in the manner which petitioner seeks to do.
- Section 75 A of the Representation of the People Act under which every elected candidate for a house of parliament has to furnish information relating to movable or immovable property. In this way adequate provisions in the Representation of the People Act under which the information sought is to be provided to the parliament to the extent mentioned in the said provisions and therefore reliance cannot be placed on the proviso to section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act to contend that the exemption provided in the said section would not operate.
Section 8 (1) (j) relates to the personal information of an individual which has no relationship to any public activity or interest. The said clause (j) is a part of section 8 which contains various categories of information which are exempted from disclosure. In so far as clause (j) is concerned, the CPIO or the SPIO may provide the said information to the information seeker if he is satisfied that larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.
Compiled by Our Team Member Advocate Jagjeet Singh