AN advocate practicing Income Tax is before the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the Income Tax Department to supply the copy of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (in short CBDT) circular/ instruction dated 19.06.2009. The information sought under the RTI Act from the Department was refused and the advocate did not succeed in his appeals till the CIC.
The Department's argument is that in order to ensure that, there is no unfairness in selection of cases for scrutiny; guidelines are issued to the Assessing Officers in this behalf which, if revealed, would enable the assessees to manipulate their returns; that the information falls within the realm of Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act and thus stands excluded as it would impact the economic interest of the country.
The Delhi High Court was not impressed. The High Court observed,
"The expression, economic interest, thus takes within its sweep matters which operate at a macro level and not at an individual, i.e., micro level. By no stretch of imagination can scrutiny guidelines impact economic interest of the country. These guidelines are issued to prevent harassment to assessees generally. It is not as if, de hors the scrutiny guidelines, the I.T. Department cannot take up a case for scrutiny, if otherwise, invested with jurisdiction, in that behalf. This is information which has always been in public realm, and therefore, there is no reason, why the respondents should keep it away from the public at large. Thus, provisions of Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act would have no applicability in the instant case.
The High Court directed the Income Tax Department to supply the relevant scrutiny guidelines to the petitioner for the financial year 2009-10. They shall hereafter upload the guidelines with regard to scrutiny on their website.
tax 'N' accounts people
Tarun Kumar Gupta
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