Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal, which will face Assembly elections in May, had opposed disclosure of its ITRs
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Income Tax (I-T) department to disclose within three weeks income tax returns (ITRs) of Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) as the issue concerns larger public interest. Anil Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) had filed the Right to Information (RTI) application seeking ITRs of BJD.
While asking the I-T department to disclose the information, Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur, cited an earlier order of the CIC which had said an information which is otherwise exempt, can still be disclosed if public interest so warrants.
“In view of the fact that a larger public interest has been established by the Commission in the judgement referred to above, the disclosure of I-T returns of Biju Janata Dal does not fall in the exemption clause of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. The CPIO is directed to provide the information sought within three weeks of receipt of the order,” Mathur held.
BJD, which will face Assembly elections in May, had opposed disclosure of its ITRs saying since they do not receive any grant from the government directly and indirectly information about their income tax returns should not be disclosed.
The I-T department decided to withhold information sought by Anil Bairwal citing a Supreme Court order which said that ITRs are personal information and should not be disclosed unless a larger public interest is involved.
Bairwal also wanted to know if the IT returns of the party contained balance sheet, auditor’s report, schedules, contribution reports and copy of assessment order among others.
The IT department held that there was no public interest involved in the disclosure of tax returns of the political party and, therefore, it could not be disclosed.
BJD was not among the six political parties that were declared to be public authorities liable to answer queries under the RTI Act by a full bench of the CIC.
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