Delhi High Court sets aside CIC order to disclose tax exemptions sought by Ayodhya Ram temple trust

Govt. counsel says information pertaining to an assessee cannot be granted under RTI Act, while court says RTI applicant can approach the appropriate authority under the Income Tax Act to get information

Updated - March 02, 2024 10:53 am IST

Published - March 02, 2024 08:47 am IST - New Delhi

Delhi High Court has set aside an order issued by the CIC to provide information related to tax exemptions/deductions sought by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which manages the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

Delhi High Court has set aside an order issued by the CIC to provide information related to tax exemptions/deductions sought by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which manages the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Delhi High Court has set aside an order issued by the Central Information Commission (CIC) that directed the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to provide information related to tax exemptions/ deductions sought by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which manages the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust was set up by the Union government in February 2020 for the construction and management of the Ram Mandir, following the orders of the Supreme Court. The trust, which has 15 members, has collected about ₹3,500 crore in donations since its establishment. The temple trust disclosed that it had received donations of up to ₹25 crore since January 22, when the temple was consecrated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Following a query under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act), the CIC directed the CBDT in November 2022 to share the complete details of applications filed by the Ram temple trust for getting exemptions/ deductions under Section 80G(2)(b) of the Income Tax Act for its donations.

The RTI application was filed by Kailash Chandra Moondra. He had also sought a copy of the trust deed, which was filed with the applications for the above mentioned purposes.

The judgment was delivered by the single-judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad on February 28, which said that it is open to the petitioner to approach the appropriate authority under the Income Tax Act

Also read: Ayodhya Ram Temple | More than a house of faith 

Counsel representing the government maintained that the information pertaining to an assessee cannot be granted under the RTI Act in view of Section 138(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Relies on January judgment

While setting aside the CIC order on February 28, the court relied on one of its judgments passed on January 22 in which it had set aside another CIC order that directed the IT Department to provide details of tax exemption granted to the PM Cares Fund under the RTI Act.

“The impugned order dated 30.11.2022 passed by the CIC is set aside. Pending applications, if any, are also disposed of. However, it is always open to the respondent to approach the appropriate authority under the Income Tax Act to seek information as sought for in the RTI application,” the court order reads.

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