NEW DELHI: The income-tax department has asked the department of personnel and training to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to shield itself from unsolicited queries on its investigations.
The RTI Act has exempted the department of revenue intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Central Excise Intelligence Bureau and the Enforcement Directorate, which are in the Schedule-II of the Act. The Central Board of Direct Taxes has written to the department of personnel and training that its investigation wing should also be exempted as its nature of work was similar to these agencies, a government source said.
“Most of these agencies exchange information with the income-tax department, which could be very sensitive in nature. Since these agencies have been exempted from the purview of the RTI Act, it is logical the income-tax department’s investigation wing should also be exempted,” he said.
The investigation mainly involves search operations to nab tax evaders. These searches, and any other investigation activity, usually involves department’s trusted network of informers, whose information is crucial to cases. These informers could get into trouble if exposed under the RTI Act and could be harassed by the affected parties, the source said.
Recently, the Central Information Commission had turned down an appeal by First Global’s Shankar Sharma seeking details of investigations carried out by the income-tax department. The department had raided the stock broker’s premises in 2001 after the Tehelka sting.
Though the department draws comfort from the decision, it wants to prevent anyone filing an application under the RTI Act to find out details about its investigations. The department has also conveyed its objections against bringing scrutiny under the purview of the RTI Act as the selection was carried out by a computerised system.
Previously CVC required and sought exemption from the purview of RTI Act 2005. Now I.T Deptt., seeking exmption. Gradually, every department require exemption from RTI Act 2005 and its provisions.
There is a general question why Agencies/Bodies/Deptt., require exemption from the purview of RTI Act 2005. What they want to hide from the general public ? Do they not accountable to the general public or the Tax payers with those resources the Department is running ? In the event of granting exemption to all Deptt.,/Agencies/Bodies,will it not defeat the purpose of enacting the RTI Act 2005 ? If all such agencies/bodies are sought exemption from the purview of RTI Act 2005 - Where is the transparancy in public dealings, which was the very basis in behind of enacting the RTI Act 2005. In my view, such tendencies by the Deptt.,/Agencies/Bodies should be curbed and Sec. 8 is already envisaged barring the disclosures, which are sufficient to safeguard the interests of P.As in general. Please do not allow to dilute the provisions of RTI Act 2005 and its provisions taking the matter in its right perspective.