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Income tax panel refuse RTI on ex-CJI's returns
April, 19th 2011

An Income-Tax appellate authority here has upheld the order of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) not to provide a copy of NHRC chairperson and former CJI K G Balakrishnan's I-T returns to an RTI applicant.

Disposing off an appeal by the RTI applicant, the authority said the appellant needed to establish that the information was for a "larger public interest". It also said there should be no objection from the former CJI for such details to be made public.

"Both these aspects fail, hence I uphold the decision of CPIO not to provide copy of I-T returns to the appellant," the order issued yesterday by Additional Commissioner of Income Tax (Kochi) A Mohan said.

The order, however, directed the CPIO to forward a copy of the I-T assessment order to the appellant T Balachandran after masking the Permanent Account Number of Balakrishnan.

Balakrishnan had sought for the rejection of the RTI petition, saying the applicant had "malafide intentions" and "vested interests" to tarnish his image and that the information sought was personal in nature which can be fraudulently used.

In his order, the I-T Additional Commissioner said from the documents and arguments put forward by the appellant, a "larger public interest" do not stand established as contained in Section 8 (j) of the Right to Information Act.

The order said allegations in the media on corruption 'ipso facto' (by the fact itself) do not justify invoking "larger public interest" and more firm evidence that corruption actually exists should be produced or there should be reason to believe on the basis of records produced that corruption actually exists.

Citing several allegations of corruption against Justice Balakrishnan's relatives appearing in the press, the applicant had sought the certified copies of I-T returns for 2006-07 to 2009-10.

I-T authorities had in February 2010 refused to reveal details of tax returns filed by Balakrishnan and his family members after he objected to the disclosures, following which the present appeal was filed.

In his order, Mohan said: "Prima facie it appears that the information sought for pertains to allegations of corruption as stated in the order of Central Information Commission has not been established before me."

While objecting to the disclosure of his I-T returns, Balakrishnan, however, had agreed to disclose his total income, taxable income and amount paid as income tax.

Balakrishnan's counsel Benny Antony Parel stated: "The information on ancestral/self acquired property, if disclosed, will be clear invasion of privacy."

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