CIC rejects Mukesh Ambani's application
As reported by BS Reporter / New Delhi June 05, 2008, Business Standard
The Central Information Commission (CIC) deemed income tax details of private individuals private and personal and refused to hand over industrialist Mukhesh Ambani's tax details to a Right to Information (RTI) applicant.
Rejecting a plea of RTI applicant who had sought a copy of the assessment order of Ambani for the financial year 2004-05 along with a copy of the demand notice against him, the Commission said a confidential information shared by an individual with the government cannot be disclosed.
"Whenever there is an assurance of confidentiality to the information provided by private individual assesses, it should be allowed to be breached only when the reasons set out pass the strictest of tests," Information Commissioner A N Tiwari said.
In his RTI application, Rasiklal S Mardia sought to know whether the Income-Tax Department had slapped Rs 1,156 crore tax demand on Ambani in the assessment year 2004-05. He contended that "tax evasion of Rs 1,156 crore by a single individual assessee cannot be said to be a matter between that assessee and the I-T Department, but must be a concern of larger public interest."
Turning down the plea of Mardia, the transparency panel said that a generalised assertion of public interest without supporting evidence cannot be a ground to revoke exemptions available to such informations. It said that the appellant's view that such conditions did exist which warranted disclosure of the information did not pass the test.
During a hearing on the matter, Ambani's counsel K R Sasiprabhu accused the appellant of running a campaign of calumny against the industrialist to malign his reputation. "Commission should be careful about disclosing information about third parties because besides encroaching into private domain, the disclosure of financial details of a party may expose him to dangers of blackmailing, extortion and other such criminal acts," Sasiprabhu said.
The CIC after recording contentions of the information seeker and Ambani said, "In its view, such claims of public interest in relations to the disclosure of personal information must be put to the strictest test before it is conceded."