I-T Dept yet to comply with CBDT order on publishing names of tax-exempt charities
Following repeated directions from the Central Information Commission (CIC), the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had asked the Income Tax (I-T) Department to place in the public domain names of all organisation and entities that enjoyed tax exemption. However, the I-T department has not yet complied with the directions.
 
There are hundreds of thousands of charitable trusts, institutions and entities in India, which have been granted exemption from Income Tax. However, not all are in the public domain. The CIC had observed, “Charity and secrecy are contradiction in terms. Any charitable institution should have no secrets and should be open to public for all purposes, including its finances...” Thus, it has repeatedly since 2010, ordered CBDT to put the list in the public domain, the last time being in April 2016.
 
The CBDT issued a circular to all of its Public Information Officers (PIOs), to make public, the names of all such charitable organisations and entities, on their websites. The latest order by the CBDT in May 2016, is a sequel to a complaint filed by Right to Information (RTI) activist and scholar Venkatesh Nayak, directing initiation of action. 
 
The CBDT orders states, “In view of the fact that the orders of the CIC are binding under the RTI Act, 2005 unless stayed or reversed by higher courts, I am directed to convey that suitable instructions may be issued to all the concerned authorities / officers / CPIOs to ensure that the orders passed by CIC in appeals and complaints under the RTI Act, 2005 are invariably complied with…, unless they are stayed or reversed by higher courts. Any deviation will be viewed adversely.”
 
Elaborating the ramification of this order, Nayak says, “Apart from the fact that the CBDT has acted promptly to issue an omnibus directive seeking compliance with all CIC orders for disclosing information that have attained finality, the specific category of information that Rakesh Agarwal (the original applicant) wanted disclosed have a direct connect with Section 4(1)(b) of The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). 
 
“The 2010 decision of CIC's Full Bench requires the disclosure of the identity of all charitable trusts/institutions and entities that have received tax exemption under Section 10, 11 and 12 of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
 
“Section 10, relates to:
Income that is not taxable under the law such as agricultural income
Interest earned by non-resident Indians who have invested in such notified government securities and bonds
Income earned by foreign diplomats by way of salary etc. during their posting in India
Payments received in commutation of pension by former employees of the Central government and the defence forces
Earned leave encashment received by government employees upon retirement
Compensation received by workmen under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947,
Golden handshake received by voluntarily retiring employees of governments
Public sector companies, cooperative societies and such other bodies listed in that section
Sums received under Keyman Insurance policy and a host of other grounds for claiming exemptions”
 
Section 11 of the Income Tax Act relates to tax exemption for income from property held for charitable or religious purposes. 
 
Section 12 of the Income Tax Act relates to income of trusts or institutions created for wholly charitable or religious purposes from contributions received which is also exempt from the payment of any tax, subject to conditions of course.’’
 
Way back in March 2010, a full Bench of the CIC had directed the I-T Department that “Needless to say, avowed purpose for which these institutions or entities come into existence is charity. Charity and secrecy are contradiction in terms. Any charitable institution should have no secrets and should be open to public for all purposes, including its finances. In other words, in our opinion, it will be in the larger public interest if the identity of the charitable trusts/institutions/entities which are granted exemption from income tax under the statutory provisions are placed in the public domain.”
 
“Hence, in exercise of powers under Section 25(5) of the RTI Act, we hereby recommend that the identity of the charitable trusts/institutions/entities which have been granted exemption from income tax under Section 10 & under Section 11/12 of the Income Tax Act is placed in public domain by way of suo motu disclosure by the CBDT in terms of section 4(1)(b) r/w section 4(2) of the RTI Act,” the CIC had said.
 
The CBDT officers sought reasonable time in this regard as they said that the task was of high magnitude and so sought eight months.
 
Thereafter, there has been repeated non-compliance of the I-T Department with the orders of the CIC.
 
In April 2013, a single Bench issued the following direction in that case: 
“…the Commission directs Ms Deepshikha Sharma, PIO/ Deputy Secretary, ITAI, CBDT, New Delhi, to ascertain the factual position about the implementation of the above decision and send a report to the Commission within four weeks of receipt of this order.” 
 
Later in December 2015, another single Bench of CIC took notice of the non-compliance of the I-T Department regarding the full Bench direction of March 2010 and directed the appellant as follows: “As stated by the CPIO, he should write to the CIT (Exemption) Chandigarh for compliance of CIC order dated 9 March 2010 [file no. CIC/LS/A/2009/00190- R. Agarwal vs Income Tax Department] at the earliest.” 
 
In January this year, yet another order from the single Bench of CIC says, “…the CPIOs are directed to provide list of charitable trusts/institutions/entities which have been granted exemption from income tax under Section 10 & Section11/12 of the Income Tax Act for the years 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14, to the appellant within 30 days from the date of receipt of this order”.
 
In April 2016, once again the CIC directed the CBDT to comply with CIC decision. It will be interesting to see if the I-T Department pays any heed to CBDT directions and publishes names of entities enjoying tax exemption in public domain.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    COMMENTS

    MG Warrier

    3 years ago

    The veil of secrecy surrounding charitable organisations including religious places and spiritual leaders builds up suspicion in the minds of public. This results in gossips and speculations. Unscrupulous elements take advantage. To start with, those institutions/organisations which are in the limelight should on their own come out and make public their sources and uses of funds and subject their existing assets to transparent accounting and audit.

    Mumbai subways are only for hawkers and not for artists?
    Mumbai is a city, which offers diversity in various forms, and one such form is its culture. In 2014-15, I had proposed for a cultural policy for the city through my notice of motion (NoM), which was accepted by the then Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte, who allocated Rs25 lakh in the budget that year.
     
    Apart from that I was told that the subway near Vasudeo Balwant Phadke Chowk, near Metro theatre can be used as a space to promote art and this proposal somewhere lost its validity, due to the lack of follow-up and also bureaucratic tactics.
      
    I started searching for the file of the said proposal in November 2014 and finally, by mid-January 2015, I was able to trace it. I immediately convened a joint meeting with the Additional Municipal Commissioner (AMC) Pallavi Darade and the staff of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art (JJ School), who showed their willingness to use the space. 
     
     
    The primary objective was that in Mumbai, the art galleries have exorbitant cost and also their availability is a major concern. So this space can be used by the students of art or the upcoming artists in the city and it will provide them a platform to exhibit their skills.
     
    It was proposed in the meeting that the artist will not be charged any fees for using this space. I was also able to get the consent from 'A' Ward officers to have special lights and protective panels for paintings, cabinets to keep the paintings safely in the evening, sitting arrangements for the artist near the display and extra security guards during day time to prevent any harm to the gallery. It was an initiative, which took me three joint meetings with JJ School, AMC and staff of ‘A’ ward and it reached to the stage of having a final agreement or memorandum of understanding (MoU). Unfortunately, due to the reluctance of former office bearers of students’ association at JJ School, the project was stalled.
     
     
    I had spent three months to get this project approved and also under my supervision had a pilot display project in the subway. Along with the staff of BMC, I spent five hours to get the pilot on the floor. Finally, as I realised that the JJ School would not be interested, I had thrown it open for other art associations, but again, I did not get much response. 
     
    My sincere attempt was to carve a cultural space for Mumbai in the subway space, instead it continues to get infested by the hawkers. Moreover I was emphasising on making the space available free of cost to the artists.
     
     
    As per the recent development, I am informed that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has asked the Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta to allot the space in subways of Metro theatre to Women's self-help group (SHG), who can have their stalls and sell the products. The BMC had already given notice of eviction to hawkers from the subway near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station. However, due to the directions from the Chief Minister, the BMC will help in having this space utilised for commercial activities of SHGs. 
     
    I sincerely support Women's SHGs group, as they do require such encouragement. However, I have the data that shows the BMC has more than 25 markets constructed in Mumbai that are lying vacant. These markets are as good as two-storey and located in many posh areas. So far, the BMC has failed to start any commercial activity there, but will soon start a commercial activity in the subway. These unused market spaces can be allotted to the Women's SHGs or rather the Maharashtra government should find a space for big establishment and promote these activities on a sincere gesture rather than depriving the rights of the pedestrians and setting a wrong precedent of opening markets in subways. 
     
    I am still trying to make this space as a cultural space and I hope to succeed in it.
     
    Let's talk development and act on it.
     
    (Prof Avkash Jadhav holds an MA in History from the University of Mumbai. Being in academics for the past 20 years, Prof Jadhav, at present, works in the Dept. of History at St Xavier's College. He has been Nominated Councillor in the BMC, representing the academic section, since 2012. Over the past four years, he has suggested various policies for the benefit of the Mumbaikars and for administrative accountability.)
     
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    Essar group allegedly tapped phones of ministers, industrialists, bureaucrats: Report
    During 2001 and 2006, the Essar Group has allegedly tapped telephones of several ministers, industrialists like the Ambanis and bureaucrats, says a report from the Outlook magazine. 
     
    According to the report, the conversations, recorded by a former Essar employee over an 11-year period from 2000, reveal how rampant illegal phone tapping has become, not even sparing the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO) when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM. 
     
    Here is what Outlook says about the taped conversations…
     
    • On tape are said to be Vajpayee’s NSA Brajesh Mishra and his foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya; cabinet colleagues Jaswant Singh, the late Pramod Mahajan and current UP governor Ram Naik, power minister Piyush Goyal, railway minister Suresh Prabhu, Mumbai MP Kirit Somaiya and Mahajan aide Sudhanshu Mittal.
       
    • On the business side, the entire undivided Ambani clan and their A-team: Mukesh Ambani, brother Anil and his wife Tina; RIL directors Hetal Meswani, Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, Manoj Modi, Anand Jain and Satish Seth; and their men Friday, Tony Jesudasan and A Sethuraman.
       
    • On the bureaucratic end, there is former PMO official NK Singh and current home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, then in the dep­artment of corporate affairs. Bringing up the rear are Subrato Roy of Sahara, Amitabh Bachchan, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh.

    On 1 June 2016, Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer Suren Uppal, who claims to represent Albasit Khan, an employee of Essar, who allegedly tapped the phones, sent a 29-page complaint to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Here are verbatim excerpts from Uppal’s letter to the PM, as quoted by Outlook…
     
    • “Conversations dated 01.12.2002, between Mukesh Ambani and Satish Seth (an RIL director) wherein they have been heard of managing the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through Pramod Mahajan, with the visit and meeting of Ajay Singh with the CJI of India.”
       
    • “Conversations between Anil Ambani and Satish Seth 29.01.2003, wherein there is a clear disclosure regarding how Reliance was trying to manage the Shivani Bhatnagar Murder case to favour Pramod Mahajan and how the same was diluted as against the minister and the company was able to control the uproar in the Parliament by using Amar Singh.”
       
    • “Conversation between Amar Singh and Kunwar Akhilesh Singh, MP from Samata Party, dated 28 November 2002, whereby it has been revealed that the whole JPC [joint parliamentary committee] was managed by Amar Singh on beh­alf of Reliance so that Company’s inv­olvement in the Ketan Parikh Scam and Global Trust Bank fiasco is managed favourably to protect Reliance Petroleum. It is further categorically mentioned in the conversation that money on behalf of Reliance has been paid to Prakash Mani Tripathi, Chairman of the JPC, whose son was already working for Reliance, along-with others including, S.S. Ahluwalia, Praful Patel, Prem Chand Gupta, Kirit Somaiya to get favourable outcomes in fav­our of Reliance India Limited.”
       
    • “Numerous conversations between N.K. Singh [then OSD in the PMO] and Mukesh Ambani, wherein they discussed the pre-budget policies of the governments and Ambani is heard influencing the making of the annual budget.”
       
    • “Conversations between V.K. Dhall, secretary DCA, Anil Ambani, Satish Seth and Rajeev Maharishi (sic), IAS, wherein the irregularities in 65-odd number of companies has been highlighted specifically from the point of view of the violations committed therein and the undue benefits been conferred on RIL thereby.”

    According to the magazine, the tapping was allegedly done through the BPL (now Loop) Mobile and Hutch servers by cell-to-cell interception. Essar’s own network and the group’s conversations were being rec­orded on land and cell lines. The intercepting SIMs were pre-paid cards bearing the numbers and were rec­harged regularly by Shishir Agarwal. 

    Uppal told the magazine that the telephonic conversations leave no doubt as to whose voice it is and what is being discussed. “While the conversations, on the cellular and landline network, recorded for over a decade, run into hundreds of hours, 12 CDs containing some crucial conversations were key. These, Uppal says, have been handed over to Modi and some of the dramatis personae concerned. No one from the government has responded so far. 
    “I applied abundant caution in getting to the bottom of this scandal and waited for a response from the PM on what they are doing about this. Considering the innumerable violations of the law, I feel this is a fit case for a CBI probe or a court-monitored probe. However, like the corporates, the government too has chosen to be silent,” Uppal told Outlook.
     
    Uppal told the magazine that after a few months, Khan went incommunicado. He said, “I feel he was ­being bought over by these corporates. They tried to manage him and he stopped taking my calls and SMSes as well. Subsequently, I have been unable to even connect with him. He could, perhaps, be out of the country by now.”
     
    Top Essar officials told Outlook there was no basis for the allegations. “Is there any evidence to suggest that these are even Essar phone taps? These are the latest in the attempts to drag our company down.” 
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