Central Information Commission (CIC) has opined that non-disclosure of feedback on probe in tax evasion complaints filed by whistle-blowers will dissuade them from giving any future information. Acknowledging that the investigation wing of the income tax department was exempted from the purview of RTI act, the CIC said such blanket ban would “dis-enthuse” whistle-blowers which may not be in the “best interest of state revenues”.
The case relates to one Brij Ballabh Singh who had sought information about the action taken on a complaint made by him on a tax evasion case at the Lucknow office of investigative wing of director general income tax (DGIT) which rejected it, citing the exemption clause of transparency law.
“It is also to be noted that blanket ban on disclosure of information regarding the action taken on tax evasion complaints may not always be in the best interest of the state revenues,” information commissioner ML Sharma said.
Sharma said, “It may dis-enthuse the information givers as information givers are generally keen to know whether the information provided by them has been of some value to the authorities or not.
“Feedback in this regard would motivate the information givers to provide further informations to the authorities and thereby enable them to curb tax evasion and enhance the state revenues,” he said.
The information commissioner said despite the office of DGIT (investigation) being an exempted organisation, it may not always be the best policy to deny some kind of feedback to the information givers.
“The CPIO had refused to disclose information on the ground that DGIT (investigation) is an exempted organisation under section 24 of the RTI Act,” he said.
Sharma said it is, however, noticed that the Central public information officer had not given the name and designation of the first Appellate Authority before whom the first appeal could be filed.
“Nor had he mentioned the time frame within which the first appeal could be filed. Thus, it appears that CPIO did not discharge his mandate under sub section (8) of section 7 of the RTI Act,” he said directing the department give the details so that RTI applicant can file the first appeal in this regard.