The RTI Activist in Arvind Kejriwal
While Arvind Kejriwal is being hailed as an astute politician, leading a relatively new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and; bringing it impressively back to power in Delhi in the state assembly elections for the third consecutive term, his seed of social commitment is in his prolific use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and spreading public awareness about it.
 
The late Prakash Kardaley, former resident with The Indian Express often recalled how it was a young government officer, Arvind Kejriwal, who had brought to his notice a small news item in a Hindi daily that a law to empower citizens to receive information from government offices was in the offing. It alerted Mr Kardaley to the potential of the RTI act and he went on to become an integral part of its journey at the state and central level and a stalwart of the RTI movement. 
 
So, when the Delhi Assembly RTI Act came into being in 2001, Mr Kejriwal, had floated a social forum called ‘Parivartan’ where he empowered citizens in his free time. 
 
Quite admirably, he would walk through slum and chawl clusters with a mike amplifier in hand, calling out for those who do not have ration cards or are not getting their rightful ration with the card to learn how to deal with the issue.
 
He would then guide them on filing RTI applications. Soon, hundreds of applications reached the food and civil supplies department, which was quite shocked at this citizens’ demand. The department responded positively. 
Arvind Kejriwal’s effort had thus helped hundreds of people obtain duplicate ration cards or get their monthly rations. 
 
He also used RTI to streamline power connections and water supply. 
 
At that time, his mentor was Aruna Roy, noted activist and former IAS officer, who had pioneered what was known as the freedom act in Rajasthan.
 
Mr Kejriwal, along with other RTI activists, also steered a campaign that was started the noted Maharashtra based activist, Anna Hazare, against the Congress government’s proposal to delete file notings from the ambit of the RTI Act. Thanks to the unity and tenacity of RTI activists, who fought this campaign together, the move was dropped.
 
When the central RTI Act 2005 was implemented, Mr Kejriwal led a sustained battle against privatisation of water supply in Delhi. He took on the World Bank and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to fight a hard battle through Parivartan. 
 
Here too, he used the RTI Act to obtain voluminous documents – over 9,000 pages of correspondence between the World Bank and DJB of biddings, DJB’s correspondence with the state and central governments as well as reports of various consultants.
 
The RTI documents revealed that more than 60% of the funding by the World Bank would go into paying salaries and fees of high profile consultants who would script the basics of water usage in Delhi, thereby making water supply expensive for Delhites. 
 
The documents also revealed that the World Bank was pressuring the Delhi Jal Board to select a particular consultancy firm for the job. The alumnus association of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and IIT Kharagpur too held a press conference urging the Delhi government to withdraw the World Bank loan, but to no avail. 
 
Arvind Kejriwal also whipped up a mass public campaign along with Aruna Roy. Buckling under pressure, the DJB was forced to withdraw the collaboration.
 
With his award money from the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Arvind set up the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) to build emergent leadership. The Foundation had also done valuable research in the use of RTI in India. It is rather inactive today. 
 
In 2017, the Delhi government with Arvind Kejriwal as chief minister, became the second state after Maharashtra, to start an e-portal for filing RTI applications. 
 
He had then said in a press conference that if all governments decide to upload all relevant information that affects people’s life in the public domain, there will be no need fro the RTI act and will help improve transparency. 
 
While wishing him a successful third tenure, we hope that he implements the Jan Soochna Portal pioneered by the Rajasthan government and followed by Karnataka. (Read: Rajasthan, Which Pioneered the RTI Movement, Launches Unique Portal for Suo Moto Disclosures)
 
This portal is exemplary in terms of transparency as most of the documents of various public authorities are uploaded and are easily accessible to public. 
Something that Mr Kejriwal loves and swears by!
 
(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

    veereshmalik

    6 months ago

    Some of us may recall the first RTI meeting in 2005 in Pune. I have photographs somewhere.

    FAQs on the Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill
    Earlier this month, the government has introduced the Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas (No dispute but trust) Bill in the Lok Sabha. This was mainly due to direct taxes worth over Rs9 lakh crore locked up in litigation. 
     
    Under the proposed ‘Vivad Se Vishwas’ scheme, a taxpayer would be required to pay only the amount of the disputed taxes and will get complete waiver of interest and penalty provided he pays by 31 March 2020.
     
    Those who avail this scheme after 31 March 2020 will have to pay some additional amount. The scheme will remain open till 30 June 2020.
     
    According to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, there are 4.83 lakh direct tax cases pending in various appellate forums such as commissioner (appeals), income tax appellate tribunals (ITATs), High Courts and the Supreme Court.
     
    Here are the frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Scheme…
     
    1. What is The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme (DTVSVS, 2020), 2020?
     
    Ans. ‘The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme (DTVSVS, 2020), 2020’ is a significant Dispute resolution-cum-amnesty scheme for liquidation of past disputes of Income Tax department. The proposed scheme is apparently a win-win situation for all concerned as it offers significant relief from the burden of disputed fee, interest and penalty.
     
    2.  Which appeals will be the subject of the Scheme?
     
    Ans. According to the proposed Bill, the DTVSVS, 2020 shall be applicable to appeals filed by taxpayers or the Government, which are pending with the Commissioner (Appeals), Income tax Appellate Tribunal, High Court or Supreme Court as on the 31st day of January, 2020 irrespective of whether demand in such cases is pending or has been paid.
     
    3. Are there any exceptions or the type of cases that not covered under the scheme?
     
    Ans. The benefit of this scheme shall not be available in following cases:-
     
    a. in respect of tax arrear-
     
    i. relating to an assessment year in respect of which an assessment has been made under section 153A or section 153C of the Income-tax Act, if it relates to any tax arrear;
     
    ii. relating to an assessment year in respect of which prosecution has been instituted on or before the date of filing of declaration;
     
    iii. relating to any undisclosed income from a source located outside India or undisclosed asset located outside India;
     
    iv. relating to an assessment or reassessment made on the basis of information received under an agreement referred to in section 90 or section 90A of the Income-tax Act, if it relates to any tax arrear;
     
    v. relating to an appeal before the Commissioner (Appeals) in respect of which notice of enhancement under section 251 of the Income-tax Act has been issued on or before the specified date;
     
    b. to any person in respect of whom an order of detention has been made under the provisions of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 on or before the filing of declaration:
     
    Provided that—
     
    i. such order of detention, being an order to which the provisions of section 9 or section 12A of the said Act do not apply, has not been revoked on the report of the Advisory Board under section 8 of the said Act or before the receipt of the report of the Advisory Board; or
     
    ii. such order of detention, being an order to which the provisions of section 9 of the said Act apply, has not been revoked before the expiry of the time for, or on the basis of, the review under sub-section (3) of section 9, or on the report of the Advisory Board under section 8, read with sub-section (2) of section 9, of the said Act; or
     
    iii. such order of detention, being an order to which the provisions of section 12A of the said Act apply, has not been revoked before the expiry of the time for, or on the basis of, the first review under sub-section (3) of that section, or on the basis of the report of the Advisory Board under section 8, read with sub-section (6) of section 12A, of the said Act; or
     
    iv. such order of detention has not been set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction;
     
    c. to any person in respect of whom prosecution for any offence punishable under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988 or for the purpose of enforcement of any civil liability has been instituted on or before the filing of the declaration or such person has been convicted of any such offence punishable under any of those Acts;
     
    d. to any person notified under section 3 of the Special Court (Trial of Offences Relating to Transactions in Securities) Act, 1992 on or before the filing of declaration.
     
    4.  How can an eligible person avail benefit under this scheme?
     
    Ans. An eligible person has to file a declaration before the designated authority, in the prescribed form. 
     
    • The designated authority, within 15 days, shall determine the tax payable by the declarant and issue a certificate to the declarant indicating the amount payable by him;

     

    • Declarant shall make payment within 15 days of issuance of certificate and intimate the details of payment to the designated authority.

     

    • The Designated authority pass an order stating that tax has been paid.

     

    • Upon filing the declaration, any appeal pending before the appellate forum in respect of the disputed income or disputed interest or disputed penalty or disputed fee and tax arrear has to be withdrawn. 

     

    • The declarant shall furnish an undertaking waiving his right, whether direct or indirect, to seek or pursue any remedy or any claim in relation to the tax arrear.
     
    5. What if someone makes a false declaration or violate any conditions?
     
    Ans. The declaration shall be deemed to have been never made and in such cases, all the proceedings and claims which were withdrawn under the scheme and all the consequences shall be deemed to have been revived.
     
    6. How is the relief computed for people eligible to avail benefit under this scheme?
     
     
    7. How this scheme is different than the Sabka Vishwas Scheme, 2019 for Indirect Tax disputes?
     
    Ans. Unlike this scheme, the SV(LDR) Scheme, 2019 provided the relief not only from interest and penalty but also from the tax amount ranging from 0% to 70%. Moreover, the coverage in the SV(LDR) Scheme 2019 was also very wide i.e. all types of disputes from Voluntary disclosure to Show cause notices were considered under the SV(LDR) Scheme, 2019.
     
    (Advocate KK Ramani is practising law since 1964 and is actively engaged in legal consultancy. Mr Ramani has authored and co-authored several books and has contributed many articles in Income Tax Review, Bombay Chartered Accountants' Journal, Financial Express and Economic Times.)
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    COMMENTS

    bipin.savla

    6 months ago

    where the assessment is disputed but the demand plus interest has been paid/adjusted against refunds , whether the interest so paid will be refunded upon settlement of principle demand;There is no clarity

    GST taxpayers flooded with notices, advisories
    With government going all-out to plug GST loopholes to contain evasion and bolster collections, taxpayers are frequently receiving notices and advisories for a range of issues including sudden spike in input tax credit (ITC) claim, lower GST payment over the previous year and mismatch in return forms.
     
    A GST Commissioner said that there is no human intervention in it and system picks up the cases by comparing the input tax credit reflecting in the returns in two years.
     
    "If it (ITC claim) is quite high or low this year compared to previous year one will have to explain," he said, adding that outliers are being red-flagged by the system.
     
    Miffed over frequent messages and advisories from the tax department, a trader said that even if explanations are sent to the department there is no communication or certificate stating that the demand is nil and the case is closed.
     
    Vivek Jalan, Partner, Tax Connect Advisory Services LLP, said that one of the major issues facing the industry is blockage of input tax credit without giving notice. He said that ITCs are blocked in case of suppliers making a mistake in filing the return.
     
    "Most of the time this data analytics itself is wrong because it is not considering imports and not considering other purchases," Jalan said.
     
    Talking about the kind of notices being received by companies, Jalan said in one case the GST authorities asked a company to explain 17 per cent increase in turnover while GST payment going up by only 5 per cent.
     
    "When we analysed the case we found that the company was rendering two kinds of services. While one was taxable at 5 per cent while the other was taxable at 18 per cent. So, the ratio of 5 per cent service went up and hence the difference in GST payment," he said.
     
    Rajat Mohan, Senior Partner, AMRG & Associates said that communications from the department are coming more in the form of advisories for a number of reasons.
     
    "In majority of the cases, notices come for claiming higher ITC. In case of sudden jump in profits also, explanations are being sought," he said.
     
    Using data analytics and artificial intelligence, the revenue department has been taking targeted action to stop tax evasion. It has identified the areas and the entities which were indulging in under-reporting of revenue or over-invoicing. This has helped the department augment GST collection in recent months.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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