Husband isn’t Permitted to Seek Information Regarding Bank Details & Income Tax Returns of His Wife under the RTI Act: CIC

Husband isn’t permitted to seek information regarding bank details & income tax returns of his wife under the RTI Act: CIC

In a noteworthy order, the Central Information Commission has noted that a Husband is not entitled to seek information regarding bank details & income tax returns of his wife under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Information Commissioner Neeraj Kumar Gupta observed that

“It is in the nature of an obligation which a citizen owes to the State viz. to pay his taxes, this information cannot be disclosed to the applicant in the absence of any larger public interest.

Contentions of the Appellant

The Appellant/Husband desired the information related to name and branch address of all those banks where his spouse was having account, at any point of time, during the financial years 2012-2013 to 2017-2018.

He submitted before the Commission that he was seeking information about his legally wedded wife, and therefore, the CPIO should have invoked Section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005.

He also contended that the information regarding her bank details & income tax returns should be disclosed.

Arguments of the Respondent

The respondent (CPIO, O/o. the Income Tax) argued  that the appellant was seeking clarification with regard to the bank details & income tax returns of his wife, which is personal in nature and therefore CPIO, O/o. the Income Tax claimed exemption u/Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005.

It was submitted that Section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005 can only be invoked if the CPIO intends to disclose the personal information and therefore, once the CPIO is satisfied that the information is to be denied under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005, Section 11 is not required to be invoked.

The respondent further stated that prima facie, no larger public interest is involved in the matter and hence, the CPIO did not intend to disclose this information.

 Decision of the Commission

This Commission observed that the opening words of Section 11 of the RTI Act are “Central Public Information Officer intends to disclose” which indicate that the procedure of Section11 has to be followed only if Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) intends to disclose the third party information. It is deduced that the CPIO is expected to follow the procedure of Section 11 when he “intends to disclose any information or record”. In the present case, the CPIO did not find any merit in disclosure and accordingly, Section 11 was not invoked.

With regards to the applicability of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005 for non-disclosure of the third party bank details and income tax returns, this Commission refers to the judgment dated 03-10-2012 of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in SLP(C) No. 27734 of 2012 titled as Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commission & ors., wherein, it has been held as under:- “ The information mostly sought for finds a place in the income tax returns of the third respondent. The question that has come up for consideration is whether the abovementioned information sought for qualifies to be “personal information” as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual. Of course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer of the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right. The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”

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The Commission also referred to the Delhi High Court verdict in Vijay Prakash v. Union of India [AIR 2010 Delhi 7] wherein it was held that, in a private dispute between husband and wife, the basic protection afforded by virtue of the exemption from disclosure enacted under Section 8(1) (j) cannot be lifted or disturbed unless the petitioner is able to justify how such disclosure would be in ‘public interest’.

At this juncture, the Commission deems it appropriate to quote Section 2(n) of the RTI Act, 2005 which reads as under:- “2(n):- “third party” means a person other than the citizen making a request for information and includes a public authority.” From the words circumscribed u/Section 2(n) of the RTI Act, 2005, it is vividly clear that any person other than the citizen making a request for information can be termed as ‘third party’. Therefore, Ms. Mamta @ Mamta Arora being a person other than the RTI applicant surely comes within the definition of ‘third party’. Moreover, the CPIO has also not intended to disclose the information and has rather pleaded that there is no public interest in the matter. This Commission also does not find any public interest which outweighs the harm caused in its disclosure.

Hence, the appeal was disposed of.

Case name: Pawan Kumar Saluja V. CPIO, O/o. the Income Tax

Citation: Second Appeal No. CIC/CCITD/A/2019/120284

Husband isn’t permitted to seek information regarding bank details & income tax returns of his wife under the RTI Act: CIC

Also Read: While Claiming Maintenance U/S 125 Of CrPC, A Party Need Not Furnish Strict Proof Of Performance Of Essential Rites Of Marriage: Allahabad HC

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