|DATE:||(Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||April 17, 2013 (Date of publication)|
|Click here to download the judgement (joginder_pal_gulati_scrutiny_guidelines_RTI.pdf)|
Income-tax department must make return scrutiny guidelines public
The Petitioner, an advocate, filed an application with the CBDT under s. 6 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 seeking information pertaining to cases excluded from scrutiny, where the disclosure was made during survey. He also sought information qua the scrutiny guidelines for the financial year 2009-10. The Department opposed the disclosure of the scrutiny guidelines on the ground that it would prejudice the “economic interest” of the Country and enable assessees to “configure” their return to avoid scrutiny. The refusal to supply the information was upheld by the CIC. The Petitioner filed a Writ Petition to challenge the order of the CIC. HELD by the High Court reversing the CIC:
The Income-tax department has issued instructions with regard to procedure for selection of cases for scrutiny from time to time both qua corporate assessees as well as non-corporate assessees. These instructions give detailed procedure on the basis on which the concerned officers are required to make a random selection of assessees whose cases are taken up for scrutiny. These instructions are in public domain even prior to the enactment of the RTI Act. Most of these instructions have been issued in the middle of the financial year and not in the beginning and they are applied to pending returns as well. Therefore, the argument, that assessees would configure their returns in the manner, which would impact the economic interest of the country, cannot be accepted. The expression “economic interest” takes within its sweep matters which operate at a macro level and not at an individual, i.e., micro level. By no stretch of imagination can scrutiny guidelines impact the economic interest of the country. These guidelines are issued to prevent harassment to assessees generally. It is not as if, de hors the scrutiny guidelines, the I.T. Department cannot take up a case for scrutiny, if otherwise, invested with jurisdiction, in that behalf. This is an information which has always been in public realm, and therefore, there is no reason why the department should keep it away from the public at large. The department shall supply the relevant scrutiny guidelines to the petitioner for the financial year 2009-10 and hereafter upload the guidelines with regard to scrutiny on their website.