Income Tax Department , India have refused to divulge information on the IT Returns of Sharad Pawar,Maneka Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, all politicians, the first the Union Minister for Agriculture the second, Opposition leader and co sister-in-law of Sonia Gandhi (sister of late Rajiv Gandhi), the last former Union Minister for Railways.
The RTI application elicited this information.
The prominent names in the list of 22 MPs and 20 MLAs whose I-T returns were asked for under RTI are Sharad Pawar, Naveen Jindal, Maneka Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Beni Prasad Verma, Ajit Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav.
“Bairwal has asked for the following information in his RTI application:
1. Whether the MPs/MLAs who fall in your jurisdiction have filed their I-T returns for all the five years (2004-2009)
2. Please provide the years for which these MPs have not filed their returns
3. Please provide details of the -IT return & assessment orders for all the years for whichthey have filed.
Apart from the RTI application, Bairwal also separately requested all Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs to disclose their I-T returns in larger public interest. Says Bairwal, “Some of these MPs sent us their I-T Returns and insisted that we make them public on our website whereas others uploaded them on their own website. We also came across some MPs and MLAs who have already submitted their I-T returns along with the respective chief minister’s office and the prime minister’s office.’’ In all, 28 of them including Anu Aga and Ambika Soni have revealed their I-T returns – (see box below).
As per the press release issued by ADR on 16 April 2013 “Of the 20 MPs whose I-T returns were asked for under RTI, the details of only three MPs—Mr Baju Ban Ryan MP from Tripura East constituency), Mr Shafiqur Rahman Barq (MP from Sambhal constituency of Uttar Pradesh) and Ms Usha Verma (MP from Hardoi constituency of Uttar Pradesh) were made available by the Public Information Officers (PIO). The I-T returns of others MPs were denied under various sections, like 8(1)(j), 8(1)(d), 11(1) and 11(3) of the RTI Act. TheRTIs of seven MPs were transferred but lost in transit hence no information was available.”
At the CIC hearing, representatives of 10 out of 20 MPs were present. The public information officers who denied the information stating lack of larger public interest and the representatives of MPs/ MLAs were invited for the hearing. The bench comprised Information Commissoners (IC) Mr ML Sharma, Ms Annapurna Dixit and Mr Rajiv Mathur.
The three CICs repeatedly questioned the representatives of the MPs as to how disclosing of their I-T returns was not in larger public interest. They repeatedly referred to the Supreme Court judgment which made declarations of assets and other details mandatory at thetime of contesting elections.. However, no arguments were put forth by the Public information Officers of the I-T department who had initially denied providing the information stating lack of public interest, states the press statement of ADR.
It is worth noting that Sonia Gandhi refused to divulge her IT returns quoting her ‘Privacy’
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has declined to disclose details of her income tax returns under the RTI Act, citing personal freedom and security risk. In her reply to the I-T department, she also said there was no public interest involved in disclosing such information.
Chennai-based RTI activist V Gopalakrishnan had sought details of her I-T returns from the year 2000-2001 to 2010-2011. The assistant commissioner of income tax, New Delhi, who is also the chief public information officer (CPIO), wrote to the UPA chairperson on January 23 as per Section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005, seeking her response to the application. In her reply, Sonia said disclosure of such private information to third parties in guise of transparency in public life would amount to unwarranted invasion of the individual’s privacy. The information submitted to the I-T department by an individual was confidential and private in nature and cannot be disclosed as per Section 138 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, she said.’
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