Appellant wanted to know about action taken on his TEP & other information - Respondent: Much of the information is accessible at www.incometaxindia.in - CIC hoped that the appellant will refrain from filing frivolous RTI applications in future
13 May 2016
The appellant has filed 30 RTI applications seeking huge information pertaining to all Income Tax offices situated in Muzaffarnagar, such as number of officers working in the said offices, name of the officers responsible for identifying new tax payers and other related information for financial year 2013-14, rules/details relating to tax payers, Name, designation and address of the authority in Income Tax offices who are dealing with tax evasion matters, officers with whom complaint can be lodged regarding tax evasion. Whether information displayed on the website can be accessed by post under RTI, Name of the CPIOs & FAAs, their telephone number, Email Id, postal address and nature of their duties. Details of Chief Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner of Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Haridwar, Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareily, Panipat, Patiala, Ambala, Chief Commissioner Income Tax Ahmedabad, Principal Commissioner New Delhi, Joint Commissioner Income Tax Range 1-2 Muzaffarnagar have also been sought. He wants to know on what basis survey and search is conducted and the specific steps taken to stop tax evasion during the financial year 2013-14 etc.
Grounds for the Second Appeal: The CPIO has not provided the desired information.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing: The following were present
Appellant: Mr. Pawan Kumar through VC
Respondent: Mr. A K Rajat CPIO HQ, Mr. Satish Mittal CPIO Ward 2(1) & 2(2) and Mr. Rishipal
CPIO Shamli through VC & Mr. Phool Chand CPIO Deoband through TC M: 07599102412 The appellant in all his appeals as detailed above has sought general information relating to officers and working of Income Tax Department. Hence, these are clubbed together and disposed of by a common order.
The CPIO HQ submitted that the appellant has filed as many as 30 appeals before the Central Information Commission seeking all and sundry information and despite heavy pressure they have made strenuous efforts to provide the information. He further stated that much of the information sought by the appellant is in the public domain and can be accessed by visiting the department’s website www.incometaxindia.in. The appellant stated that he had lodged a TEP against a medical store in early 2015 and wants to know what action has been taken by the department. He further stated that he wants a copy of the scheme for payment of award to informants. He also requested for a note explaining the method adopted by the Income Tax Department for assessment and scrutiny. The CPIO HQ stated that he will supply the information as requested above by the appellant.
As agreed by the CPIO HQ, he should supply the information requested above by the appellant at the earliest.
As regard the information displayed on the Income Tax Department website, it is seen that the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in its decision dated 01/06/2012(W.P(C) 11271/2009 Registrar of Companies & Ors vs. Dharemendra Kumar Garg & Anr) has held as under:
“48. In Sh. K. Lall Vs. Sh. M.K. Bagri, Assistant Registrar of Companies & CPIO, F. No. CIC/AT/A/2007/00112, the Central Information Commissioner Sh. A.N. Tiwari squarely considered the very same issue with regard to the interplay between Section 610 of the Companies Act and the rights of a citizen to obtain information under the RTI Act. Sh. A.N. Tiwari by a detailed and considered decision held that information which can be accessed by resort to Section 610 of the Companies Act cannot be accessed by resort to the provisions of the RTI Act. The discussion found in his aforesaid order on this legal issue reads as follows: ‘9. It shall be interesting to examine this proposition. Section 2(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to- (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device; of the RTI Act speaks of "the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority ". The use of the words "accessible under this Act"; "held by" and "under the control of" are crucial in this regard. The inference from the text of this sub-section and, especially the three expressions quoted above, is that an information to which a citizen will have a right should be shown to be (a) an information which is accessible under the RTI Act and (b) that it is held or is under the control of a certain public authority. This should mean that unless an information is exclusively held and controlled by a public authority, that information cannot be said to be an information accessible under the RTI Act. Inferentially it would mean that once a certain information is placed in the public domain accessible to the citizens either freely, or on payment of a predetermined price, that information cannot be said to be 'held' or 'under the control of' the public authority and, thus would cease to be an information accessible under the RTI Act. This interpretation is further strengthened by the provisions of the RTI Act in Sections 4(2), 4(3) For the purposes of sub-section (1), every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public. and 4(4), which oblige the public authority to constantly endeavour "to take steps in accordance with the requirement of clause b of subsection 1 of the Section 4 to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communication including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information." (Section 4 sub-section 2). This Section further elaborates the position. It states that "All materials shall be disseminated taking into consideration the cost effectiveness, local language and the most effective method of communication in that local area and the information should be easily accessible, to the extent possible in electronic format with the Central Public Information Officer or State Public information Officer, as the case may be, available free or at such cost of the medium or the print cost price as may be prescribed." The explanation to the subsection 4 section 4 goes on to further clarify that the word "disseminated" used in this Section would mean the medium of communicating the information to the public which include, among others, the internet or any other means including inspection of office of any public authority.”
As per the ratio of the above cited decision once an information is put on internet it cannot be said to be 'held' or 'under the control of' the public authority and, thus would cease to be an information accessible under the RTI Act.
The respondent have pointed out that the appellant has filed as many as 30 appeals before the CIC seeking all and sundry information and despite heavy pressure they have made strenuous efforts to provide information. In this context, it is pertinent to quote the following observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its decision dated August 9, 2011(Civil Appeal No.6454 of 2011- Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors.) ‘Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counterproductive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising 'information furnishing' at the cost of their normal and regular duties.’
Similarly, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi vide its decision dated 05/02/2014 [W.P. No. 845/2014–Shail Sahni vs Sanjeev Kumar & ors.] has observed as under:
“5. Keeping in view the width and amplitude of the information sought by the petitioner, it is apparent that the prayers in the writ petition are nothing short of an abuse of process of law and motivated if not an attempt to intimidate the respondent……………. 10. …………………….This Court is also of the view that misuse of the RTI Act has to be appropriately dealt with, otherwise the public would lose faith and confidence in this “sunshine Act”. A beneficent Statute, when made a tool for mischief and abuse must be checked in accordance with law………….”
The Commission hopes the appellant will take a careful note of the above judicial observations and refrain from filing frivolous RTI applications in future. The appeals are disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Mr. Pawan Kumar v. Income Tax Department in File No.CIC/CC/A/2014/001693+001794+002534+002537+002579+002580+002581+002586 002304+002598+002601+002603+002604+002605+002606+002607+002608+002609+002610+002611+002305+002306+002594+002597+002593+002596+002599+002600+003009+003010/BS/10334