Delhi HC quashes CIC order directing I-T dept to disclose PM CARES Fund info | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Delhi HC quashes CIC order directing I-T dept to disclose PM CARES Fund info

Jan 23, 2024 06:10 AM IST

The Income Tax Act prevails over the RTI Act, the court held, adding that information relating to an assessee could only be supplied subject to special circumstances

The Delhi high court on Monday set aside an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the income-tax department to disclose information related to the grant of tax exemption status to the PM CARES Fund to Girish Mittal, a right to information applicant, .

An RTI was filed in the Delhi high court seeking the disclosure of information related to the grant of tax exemption status to tghe PM CARES Fund. (HT Archive)
An RTI was filed in the Delhi high court seeking the disclosure of information related to the grant of tax exemption status to tghe PM CARES Fund. (HT Archive)

The Income Tax Act prevails over the RTI Act, the court held, adding that information relating to an assessee could only be supplied subject to special circumstances. The order was passed in an appeal by the income-tax department against the April 2022 order directing it to provide copies of the documents submitted in the exemption application filed by the PM CARES Fund.

“Section 138 (1)(b) and Section 138 (2) of the IT Act which lays down a specific procedure relating to disclosure of information relating to a third party under the IT Act would override Section 22 of the RTI Act. The information sought for by the Respondent herein is clearly covered by Section 138(1)(b) of the IT Act. The satisfaction of Principal Chief Commissioner or Chief Commissioner or Principal Commissioner or Commissioner is, therefore, necessary before such information can be divulged,” a bench of justice Subramonium Prasad said in the 23-page order. “That satisfaction cannot be abrogated to any other authority under a general Act for divulging the information sought for.”

“The CIC does not have the jurisdiction to direct furnishing of information, provided for in Section 138 of the IT Act. In any case, even if they had the jurisdiction, the failure to give PM CARES notice of hearing would in itself have vitiated the impugned,” the judge noted.

The I-T department, appearing through special counsel Zoheb Hussain, submitted that any information pertaining to an assessee received or obtained by any income-tax authority could only be sought in the manner prescribed under the Income Tax Act and not under the Right to Information Act.

The Central Public Information Officer cannot provide the information as it was contrary to the mandate under the Income Tax Act, Hussain said. It was also contended that the information sought for was exempted under the RTI Act as it could not have been disclosed without hearing from the PM CARES Fund.

The applicant, appearing through advocate Pranav Sachdeva, contended that there was an overwhelming public interest in directing the information officer to supply the information since the fund was created to serve the public. The applicant wanted to know the exact procedure followed by the I-T department in granting a swift approval and to see if the department had bypassed any rules while granting the exemption.

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