Yash Malhotra vs CPIO, lncome Tax Department
In order to verify the facts in a maintenance case, the Central Information Commission (CIC) recently ordered a Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to give a man merely the “generic details of the net taxable income or gross income” of his wife.
In an order dated September 27, Information Commissioner Saroj Punhani observed that the CIC had previously approved a similar plea in Rahmat Bano vs. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax.
The CIC concluded that the appellant (spouse) in the current case was likewise entitled to such information by using the same criteria.
On October 10, 2022, the appellant submitted an RTI request in order to get information on his wife’s gross and net income.
The CPIO rejected the request for information on February 2, 2023, citing Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act’s limitations.
The appellant submitted his initial appeal on February 16. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information Commission & Ors. was used to dismiss this appeal as well.
The appellant, furious, filed a second appeal with the CIC.
The appellant claimed that he had asked his estranged wife for information about her income in order to support testimony in a maintenance case that had been brought against him. He claimed that under the guise of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, the material had been wrongfully withheld from him.
The CPIO argued in opposition, citing Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act to claim that the material was withheld from him because it constituted personal information about a third party.
According to the appellant’s wife, requesting the information through an RTI application would not be in the public interest because the data had previously been provided to the civil court during the maintenance case.
The CIC acknowledged that the Delhi High Court in Vijay Prakash v. Union of India made the observation that the fundamental protection provided by section 8(1)(j) cannot be lifted or disturbed in private disputes, such as those between a husband and wife.
It further mentioned that similar facts were used in Madhumala B. R. vs. ACIT, Ward 3(3)(1), Bangalore, where the appellant was refused access to the material because the Karnataka High Court had temporarily suspended the material Commission’s orders to provide it.
The CIC continued, however, by pointing out that in the Rahmat Bano case, a man’s estranged wife was permitted access to his gross income.
It was noted that the CIC had considered judgments made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the Bombay High Court in the Rahmat Bano case.
In a 2018 decision, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had ruled that when addressing Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, one cannot forget that the parties are husband and wife and that a wife would have a right to know what salary her husband was receiving.
In the same year, the Bombay High Court decided that information pertaining to wage details was no longer restricted to the category of personal information in litigation when the issue was a wife’s maintenance.
Applying these decisions to the current situation, the CIC then ordered the CPIO to give the appellant’s wife’s husband the “generic details of the net taxable income or gross income” of her within 15 days of receiving the order.