Subject Matters of Investigation conducted by IT Dept against Chartered Accountant can’t be revealed through RTI: CIC [Read Order]

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The Central Information Commission ( CIC ) has held that the subject-matters of Investigation conducted by the Income Tax Department against a Chartered Accountant cannot be revealed through RTI.

The appellant, through an application under the RTI Act, sought copies of certain documents which he required in order to file a reply on a complaint made against him by the Addl. DIT (Inv.) Jodhpur, before the ICAI.

Before the Commission, the applicant contended that the information sought by him had been denied arbitrarily with total disregard to the issues relating to corruption and human rights violation as enunciated in the proviso to Section 24 of the RTI Act, 2005. He emphasized that he had approached the DGIT (Inv.), Jaipur who in turn had directed the officials at Bikaner to provide the information sought by the Appellant as also allow inspection which was denied to him. Highlighting the sensitivities of the matter, the Respondent-department articulated that the action was being contemplated against the Appellant as per the provisions of the Chartered Accountant’s Act, 1949 in respect of the fraudulent activities carried out by him in rotation of black money through Shell Companies etc. which was a serious offence under investigation by them.

The Commission observed that the framework of the RTI Act, 2005 restricts the jurisdiction of the Commission to provide a ruling on the issues pertaining to access/ right to information and to venture into the merits of a case or redressal of grievance.

The Commission also observed that the DGIT (Inv) was included in the list of organization exempted from the purview of RTI Act, 2005 as per section 24 r/w second schedule to the RTI Act, 2005.

“Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in a similar matter in Pr. DIT (Inv) (1) vs. Ashwani Kumar, W.P.(C) 11591/2017 dated 22.12.2017 stayed the decision of the Commission wherein a direction was issued to the Pr. DIT (Inv) (1) to inform the status of the Petition/Complaint dated 12.02.2016 addressed to PMO, within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order. In the said matter, the Hon’ble High Court had also directed the Department to file an affidavit unequivocally stating that the complaint in question is a matter being investigated by the DGIT (Inv.) and not any other office of the IT Authority,” the Commission said.

While concluding, the Commission pointed out that “In the instant case, what has emerged from the facts of this matter is initiation of disciplinary proceedings against the Appellant by the ICAI as per the complaint made by the IT authorities and the submission of the Respondent that the documents on the basis of which the complaint was filed were already provided to the Appellant. Moreover, in the present instance, the Appellant has merely alleged tampering of seized material and change in denomination of currency seized, tampering of statements recorded during survey, bogus search/ survey, backdating of letters, fabrication of evidence by sending letters on wrong/ incomplete addresses, delay in completion of investigation, issuance of notices u/s 133 (6) without authority of law, etc which were subject matters of investigations conducted by the IT Department forming part of their primary/ core activity. Thus, it is apparent that the Public Authority had given a suitable reply to the Appellant.”

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