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Tax refund delayed? Use RTI to know why
March, 17th 2010

Life just got better for millions who have ran from pillar to post for years to secure their tax refunds from the income tax (I-T) department.

In a landmark ruling, the Central Information Commissioner has passed an order which says information on refunds is covered under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

L Lakshmi Narayanan, an assessee, had filed an RTI petition with the (I-T ) department in Chennai, asking for information as to why was there a delay in the payment of his IT refunds for 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2008-09, amounting to Rs 3,32,457.

The department, however, refused to provide Narayanan the information contending that such information did not involve any larger public interest.

The information sought is covered under Section 8(1)( e) of the RTI, wherein the information sought is not in larger public interest and is purely personal in nature, the department told the petitioner.

However, the appellant received refunds for 2005-06 and 2006-07 while he was seeking information. Following this, Narayanan filed another appeal to which the income tax department replied: Information regarding issue of ones own refund is necessarily a personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest.

M L Sharma, the Central Information Commissioner, while passing the order, said: To deny the appellant information sought by him under clause (e) or clause (j) of section 8(1) is nothing but misappreciation of law.

The information sought by the appellant is covered under section 2(f) of the RTI Act and he has a right of seek information under section 2(j) thereof. It is clarified that the appellant has not sought any information which the public authority is holding in fiduciary capacity.

While directing the income tax department to disclose information for the inordinate delay, he also ordered the issue of refunds within three months. The CIC also rapped the department for failing to appear in a hearing arranged by the commission where the appellant was present.

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