It may be a good idea to tell your wife how much you earn, but you don’t really have to — if you are employed in the private sector.
That, in effect, was the Income Tax (I-T) department’s message to a group of women from Chhattisgarh who sought details of their husbands’ salaries, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Encouraged by the success of Chhattisgarh resident Ritu Sharma in accessing details of her husband’s salary last year, following a directive by the Central Information Commission, the women sought similar information about their husbands’ salaries.
But their husbands’ firms refused, saying the companies did not fall under the purview of the RTI Act, unlike the National Thermal Power Corporation, the public sector company Sharma’s husband was employed in.
The wives didn’t give up. They sought the salary information from the I-T department, again under the RTI. But hopes dashed when the department, too, refused to oblige. “There is a prohibitory clause under Section 138A of the Income Tax Act, under which no information on the returns filed can be disclosed to anyone,” Chhattisgarh’s Chief Income Tax Commissioner Jamil Ahmed said.
“The department can provide such information only to the courts on demand.”
He said usually “disillusioned wives, whose marriages are on the rocks, and seeking divorce or compensation are filing such RTI applications”.
Chhattisgarh Citizens’ Initiatives Convener Prateek Pandey, who heard the women’s grievances, said: “We’ve decided to launch a campaign to declare corporate houses and private companies as public authorities that are either financed by the government or get benefits and subsidies under government’s policies.”
The RTI applicants are disappointed. “We expected cooperation from the I-T department,” a woman said, on condition of anonymity.