Delhi HC Sets Aside Order Seeking to Disclose Info on ‘Ram Mandir Trust’

Ram Mandir

The Delhi High Court has set aside an order from the Central Information Commission (CIC) instructing the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to disclose information pertaining to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, responsible for overseeing the construction and administration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, under the RTI Act.
Justice Subramonium Prasad, in allowing the petition by the CBDT challenging the CIC’s November 30, 2022 order, stated that the applicant, Kailash Chandra Moondra, retains the option to approach the appropriate authority under the Income Tax Act to request the information as sought in the RTI application.
The court was hearing a petition by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of CBDT seeking to annul the November 30, 2022, order of the CIC, which had instructed the CPIO to reevaluate certain aspects of the application under the RTI Act and furnish information within 15 days of receiving the order.
The RTI applicant had originally requested a copy of the complete application, along with all annexures, submitted by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust to avail exemptions or deductions under relevant provisions for its donations. Additionally, the applicant sought a copy of the trust deed filed with the application for obtaining exemptions or deductions for its donations.
Initially, the information was sought from the CBDT’s CPIO, which was denied. Subsequently, the first appeal was made to the appellate authority of CBDT, which also declined to provide the information.
The RTI applicant then escalated the matter to the CIC with a second appeal, which overturned the decisions of the CBDT’s CPIO and the appellate authority, culminating in the November 30, 2022 order.
The counsel representing CBDT argued before the high court that information concerning an assessee cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act, citing Section 138(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act. The counsel also referenced a judgment from January 22, wherein the high court invalidated a CIC order directing the Income Tax Department to furnish details regarding the tax exemption granted to the PM Cares Fund under the RTI Act.
It was noted that the CIC lacks jurisdiction to mandate the disclosure of information as stipulated under Section 138 (pertaining to the disclosure of information regarding assesses) of the IT Act.
Consequently, the high court decreed, “In view of the above, the writ petition is allowed. The impugned order dated November 30, 2022, passed by the CIC is set aside.”

Recommended For You

About the Author: Nunnem Gangte