Delhi HC overturns CIC directive to reveal Ram Temple Trust's tax info
The Delhi High Court has overturned an order by the Central Information Commission (CIC), which had mandated the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to disclose information about the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The Trust oversees the management of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
The High Court’s decision came as it ruled in favour of a petition filed by the CBDT, challenging the CIC's order dated November 30, 2022.
Justice Subramonium Prasad -- who presided over the case -- said that RTI applicant Kailash Chandra Moondra has the option to seek the desired information through the appropriate channels specified under the Income Tax Act, instead of the RTI Act.
Moondra had filed an RTI application, requesting detailed documents related to the Trust's application for tax exemptions or deductions on its donations, including a copy of the trust deed.
The request was initially denied by the CBDT's Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), a decision upheld by the appellate authority within the CBDT, leading Moondra to file a second appeal with the CIC.
The CIC's decision to reverse the earlier denials and direct the CPIO to furnish the requested information was the subject of the CBDT's legal challenge.
In its defence, the CBDT cited Section 138(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act, which protects the confidentiality of assessee information, arguing that such details cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act.
The board's argument was supported by a recent high court judgement regarding the non-disclosure of information about the PM Cares Fund's tax exemptions under the RTI Act, reinforcing the limited jurisdiction of the CIC in matters protected by specific provisions of the Income Tax Act.
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