In an important judgement, the Central Information Commission has ruled that a husband is not entitled to seek information about his wife’s bank details & income tax return under Right to Information Act, 2005. The Commission also observed that filing of Income Tax returns with the tax department by a person is not a public activity.
Case Before the Commission:-
The appellant/husband sought information related to all banks’ name and branch address wherein his spouse had an account during the financial years 2012-2013 to 2017-2018. Before the Commission, the husband contended as he was seeking information about his legally wedded wife, CPIO should invoke Section 11 of RTI Act. He further submitted that the Department should disclose information about his wife’s bank account and income tax returns.
On the other hand, the respondents( CPIO, the office of Income Tax ) argued that information that the petitioner was seeking, was personal. Therefore the Department claimed exemption u/s 8(1)(j) of RTI Act. They further argued that Section 11 could only be invoked if CPIO intends to disclose the information. Still, if CPIO is satisfied that information should not be disclosed u/s 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, Section 11 cannot be invoked.
The decision of the Commission:-
The Commission agreed with the stand of the respondents and observed that the CPIO is expected to follow the procedure mentioned u/s 11 when they want to disclose any information, however in the instant case, the CPIO did not see any reason to disclose the information, so Section 11 was not invoked.
In this regard, reliance was placed on Girish Ramchandra Deshpande vs Central Information Commission where the Supreme Court held that details disclosed by a person in their IT returns were personal information and is exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act unless the information is related larger public interest.
The Commission also referred to Vijay Prakash vs Union of India where the Delhi High Court held that in a personal dispute between wife and husband exemption from disclosure u/s Section 8(1)(j) cannot be disturbed or lifted unless the petitioner can prove that the information would be in the public interest.
Lastly, the Commission opined that in the absence of any larger public interest in the case, the appellant is not entitled to seek information about his wife’s income tax returns and bank details as it is exempted u/s 8(1)(j) of RTI Act.
Title: Pawan Kumar Saluja vs CPIO O/o Income Tax
Case No.: Second Appeal No. CIC/A/2019/120284
Date of Order:05.01.2021
Coram: Information Commissioner Neeraj Kumar Gupta