Certified copy of certificate 12-A issued by IT dept was sought - PIO: They were not obliged to maintain records beyond 20 years - CIC: Sec 8 (3) was misinterpreted - CIC was appalled to learn about the abysmal condition of record keeping in the office
O R D E R
The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information regarding certified copy of certificate 12-A issued by the Respondent Public Authority for the Shabd Pratap Satsang which was registered as a charitable trust. The CPIO vide its letter dated 20.02.2017 stated that the information sought was not available. Dissatisfied with the CPIO’s reply, the appellant approached the FAA. The FAA vide its order dated 20.03.2017 concurred with the CPIO’s response.
Facts emerging during the hearing:
The following were present:
Appellant: Mr. Narayan Datt Tripathi through VC;
Respondent: Mrs. T. Nair, ITO(Hqrs.) & CPIO through VC;
The Appellant re-iterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that being the Secretary of the Shabd Pratap Satsang, he desired a copy of certificate 12A issued by the Respondent Public Authority to the Trust, for the purpose of filing the audited income tax returns. Explaining that over the years they had been claiming exemption under Section 80G of the IT Act, 1961, the Appellant stated that the information sought, should be available with the Respondent Public Authority. In its reply, the Respondent while referring to their earlier replies stated that being very old information, the same was not available with them and that the Appellant also did not indicate the date of issue of the certificate in his application. During the hearing, it was conveyed that the centralized office of CIT (Exemption) came into existence on 15.11.2014 only and prior to that, the jurisdictional CITs prepared the certificates. On being queried, if they had followed up with the jurisdictional authorities at Gwalior or not, the Respondent replied in the affirmative.
Having heard both the parties and on perusal of the available records, the Commission observed that even though the Respondent fulfilled the technical requirement of responding to the RTI application within the period stipulated under the Act, the substantive issue remained unaddressed more so for the reason that the Appellant claimed exemption under Section 80G of the IT Act, 1961 and there ought to be some basis for granting such exemption. On being queried regarding the details of the jurisdictional Pr. Chief Commissioner, the Respondent informed that Mr. P. K. Dash was the concerned Pr. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, at Bhopal.
Moreover, during the hearing, the Respondent submitted that as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, they were not obliged to maintain and provide records for a period beyond 20 years. However, the Commission found that the provision was misinterpreted by the Respondent since as per Section 8 (3) of the Act, subject to clause (a), (c) and (i) of Section 8 (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which had taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request was made under Section 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section.
Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties, the Commission instructs Mr. P.K. Dash, Pr. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Bhopal to inquire into the whole matter either by himself or by an officer not below the rank of a Joint Secretary and submit its report to the Appellant within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order under intimation to the Commission. The Commission was however, appalled to learn about the abysmal condition of record keeping within the Public Authority. It was therefore advised to take cognizance of the inherent weaknesses in the administrative functioning of the Public Authority Officials and to initiate corrective measures in this regard.
The Appeal stands disposed with the above direction.
Citation: Mr. Narayan Datt Tripathi, v. Office of the Commissioner of IT(Exemption) in Second Appeal No. CIC/CCABH/A/2017/133035-BJ, Date of Decision: 27.07.2018