Is the quantum of sales tax paid liable to be disclosed under RTI?
The appellant wanted to know the numbers of shops at Indra Puri Budh Nagar (J.J. Colony) which are registered with Sale Tax department and the details of taxes being paid by them. He specifically asked for details of tax being paid by a particular medical shop at Indra Puri and an enquiry report in respect of the said medical shop. The Public Information Officer (PIO) provided information about the total numbers of shops registered with the department and tax being paid by them. The disclosure of remaining information (like, name of the shop keeper, enquiry report etc.) were refused citing Section 98 of DVAT Act. Later, on the directions of the First Appellate Authority (FAA), the PIO provided the remaining information in the form of a list containing name of shop keeper, phone numbers etc. along with a copy of enquiry report. He however demanded payment of a fee of Rs. 6/- for the supply of copies of enclosures attached with the said enquiry report.
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During the hearing, the appellant complained that the PIO has neither indicated the number of pages for which he demanded the fee, nor has he sent the complete information to him. The Commission noted that the information given to the appellant did not contain the 3 page enclosure of the said enquiry report. The Commission did not accept the explanation of the respondent that since the appellant had not deposited the requisite fee, they did not supply the same. Considering the fact that the PIO in the first instance did not indicate the number of pages and amount to be paid by the appellant for supply of the information, the Commission directed the PIO to provide the information free of cost.
This case offers two lessons. First, the sales tax paid by a company is held to be its commercial information and is not liable to be disclosed, at least not before giving a third party notice. This plea has not been taken at any stage during the hearing in the case. Secondly, the PIO should avoid unnecessary litigation over trivial matters, like a fee for three pages. The country pays a much higher price in terms of litigation for such useless objections.
Citation: Shri Ashok Kumar v. Trade and Taxes Department in file no. CIC/AD/A/2012/000320
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/152
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