Seeking time period of retention of Income Tax Return filed by an assessee under RTI
The appellant sought the information regarding the period of retention of Income Tax Returns (ITR) filed by an assessee along with copy of government order and the period up to which Income Tax Officer (ITO) can ask assesse to submit ITRs along with copy of government order. He further wanted the copy of rules of the government order under which raid was conducted by ITOs and what records were required to be brought in connection with the raid. He also asked whether the competent officer at the time of the raid can take articles/accounts away by the officer conducting the raid without Mahazar statement and disconnect the phone connections. The Public Information Officer (PIO) denied the information regarding the period of retention of ITR filed by the assesse and the period upto which the ITO can ask assesse to submit IT Returns, stating that the requisite information was not in possession of the PIO and hence cannot be provided. During the hearing, the PIO submitted that in his response, he had stated that the First Appellate Authority (FAA) was Director (ITA.II), CBDT, North Block, New Delhi and no appeal has been received from the appellant. Records indicate that an appeal had been filed but the appellant had marked it to the Chairman, CBDT and this has not been received by them.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) observed that the response of the PIO shows ignorance of the provisions of the RTI Act. If he did not possess the requisite information he should have transferred it to the PIO who was the repository of this information. The Commission also stated that the PIO is not able to provide any explanation for a considerable delay in replying to the application. The Commission issued a notice to the PIO to explain the circumstances under which the information sought was not provided and why action under section 20(1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees: Provided that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him: Provided further that the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently shall be on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be. of the RTI Act should not be taken. The Commission directed the PIO to provide information to the appellant.
This case highlights the predicament of a PIO who is ignorant of the provisions of the RTI Act and does not know how to react to a RTI application if the information is not available with him.
Citation: Mr. S.K. Syed Jamal v. Income Tax Department in File No.CIC/DS/A/2011/001139/RM
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/475
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