The Income Tax Department has now decided to provide full details of tax returns of political parties under the RTI Act after the Central Information Commission (CIC) issued it directives in this regard. The department, according to sources, used to restrict such information, citing section 138 of the Income Tax Act, which allowed denial of such information under RTI Act as “disclosure of information respecting assessees.”
The I-T department has taken the step to bring in transparency in the funding of both big and small parties as the information will now be in public domain.
Chief Election Commissioner S Y Qureshi had earlier expressed concerns over the funding of such political parties and had asked the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to scrutinise their accounts.
With the new development, general public will now be able to obtain the details of income, donations and expenditure by all the political parties, which file their income tax returns.
The CIC, in an order in 2008, had asked the I-T department to allow the disclosure of such information under “larger public interest” and the department has now decided to furnish this information in “full spirit”.
“Such parties which are registered but do not file their income tax returns will now have to file their details in larger public interest,” said a senior I-T officer.
Such a step has also been taken to check the flow of blackmoney in the electoral process and make transparent the funding of political parties, the officer said.
Large political parties had always furnished their returns but the new step will allow individuals to access the income and funding details of small parties as well, the officer added.