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IT order to reveal finances to info seeker stayed
November, 05th 2011

An Income Tax Department's order, terming a religious Trust a "deemed public authority" for availing tax rebates and asking it to disclose its finances to a person under the transparency law, has been stayed by the Delhi High Court.

A single-judge bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi stayed the order of the in-house IT appellate authority, mandated to deal with appeals under the Right to Information Act, on a plea by Shri Sai Bhakta Samaj, a religious trust managing the popular Sai Baba Temple here at Lodhi Colony in South Delhi.

The trust had contended in its appeal against IT appellate authority's order that it is out of the purview of RTI Act as it is not a public authority as the tax exemption cannot be treated as government funding and even if it is treated so, it is not substantial for rendering it a public authority.

 
ZCZC PRI ECO ESPL LGL NAT .NEWDEL DES17 HC-SAIBABA IT order to reveal finances to info seeker stayed New Delhi: An Income Tax Department's order, terming a religious Trust a "deemed public authority" for availing tax rebates and asking it to disclose its finances to a person under the transparency law, has been stayed by the Delhi High Court.

A single-judge bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi stayed the order of the in-house IT appellate authority, mandated to deal with appeals under the Right to Information Act, on a plea by Shri Sai Bhakta Samaj, a religious trust managing the popular Sai Baba Temple here at Lodhi Colony in South Delhi.

The trust had contended in its appeal against IT appellate authority's order that it is out of the purview of RTI Act as it is not a public authority as the tax exemption cannot be treated as government funding and even if it is treated so, it is not substantial for rendering it a public authority.

Justice Sanghi also issued notices to information seeker S K Kapur, a founding member of the Trust and IT appellate authority under the RTI Act, Additional Director of Income Tax (Exemptions), seeking their replies to the Trust's plea. The trust had come to the high court challenging the August 18, 2011, order of Additional Director of Income Tax (Exemptions).

IT authority had directed the Trust to disclose its tax return, balance sheet and audit reports of financial years 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 saying the tax exemptions granted to it can be considered as indirect funding from the government

 
"Under section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005, a substantially funded agency by the government is deemed public authority. The financing of the fund may be direct or indirect.

"Since the society is claiming exemption under the Income Tax Act, it can be said the funds are indirectly being provided to the society to the extent of tax exemption claimed by the society," IT authority had said in its order.

 The appellate authority had passed the judgment on an appeal by Kapur against the order of Chief Information Officer, Income Tax Officer (Exemptions), who had refused the information holding that information sought pertains to a "third party" society.

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