IT appellate authority upholds CPIO's action rejecting request for copies of returns

The Income Tax appellate authority here has decided not to provide most of the income details of the former Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, sought by a right to information (RTI) activist.

This follows objections raised by Justice Balakrishnan.

The appellate authority, however, agreed to provide the assessment order on Justice Balakrishnan's income for 2008-09. The copy of the orders should be provided to RTI activist T. Balachandran after masking the PAN number.

The authority has upheld the decision of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) in the department who had rejected the request for copies of the IT returns filed by the former CJI.

In a statement, made through his counsel, to the RTI appellate authority of the IT Department in Kochi, Justice Balakrishnan stuck to his initial stand that income tax returns, being personal in nature, should not be revealed to an RTI applicant. He asserted his right under Section 8(1)j of the RTI Act 2005 to object to the IT Department revealing his income details.

Earlier this month, however, Justice Balakrishnan had said he had “no objection in disclosing my total income or taxable income or the amount paid as income tax during the year 2005 to 2010.” He had also said, “I reiterate my stand made clear in my reply dated 5{+t}{+h} February 2011,” in which he had raised his arguments against revealing his income details.

In his latest statement, Justice Balakrishnan, apart from raising his other arguments against revealing the contents of his IT returns, said: “Moreover, it is also understood that the petitioner [Dr. Balachandran] is having mala fide intention and vested interest to tarnish the 3{+r}{+d} respondent [K.G. Balakrishnan] and his present attempt is nothing but a desperate step to malign unnecessarily to attract the lights of media for controversy.”

Dr. Balachandran had sought details of the incomes and assets of Justice Balakrishnan and his close relatives as provided in their income tax returns. The CPIO, in accordance with the RTI Act, asked Justice Balakrishnan if he had any objection to revealing the details. Justice Balakrishnan initially responded that he did not want these details revealed by asserting his right under Sec. 8(1)j. He also feared that his PAN and bank account numbers could be fraudulently used by interested persons.