The wealth of political leaders often becomes the talking point before assembly and parliamentary elections.
The wealth of political leaders often becomes the talking point before assembly and parliamentary elections. Names of richest and the poorest candidates, in particular, get mentioned in newspaper columns. However, declaration about the property owned by lawmakers, or those who are hopefuls, is sometimes subjected to scrutiny by the Income Tax Department. However, this information is not accessible to public through Right To Information Act. But the Election Commission wants to make the report, which is only a verification report and indicative in nature, public under the RTI Act, as per an Indian Express report. However, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is learnt to have told the Election Commission (EC) that the scrutiny of assets declared by lawmakers in their poll affidavits cannot be disclosed to the public, due to technicalities.
As per information available to The Indian Express, the EC is of the view that since a verification report is not an investigation report, its disclosure should not be restricted under Section 24 of the RTI Act. The said act exempts certain organisations from being covered under this law. These firms also include the Director General of Income Tax (DGIT).
The Election Commission is of the view that disclosure of scrutiny report is in the interest of voters. As per the Commission, making public such information empowers aggrieved or interested persons (such as losing candidates) to file a complaint or an FIR against the persons who provide false information in the election affidavit.
However, the CBDT is learnt to have told the Commission that disclosing the verification report is not “feasible” since it would violate of Section 138 of the Income Tax Act.
The section bars furnishing any information with regard to an assessee under the IT Act. It also maintains that such disclosures are punishable. The CBDT doesn’t scrutinise every poll affidavit submitted to it but only acts in the cases referred to it by the commission. Generally, the EC asks the Commission to act in cases where the contesting candidate’s assets have grown phenomenally since the last elections, cases of winning candidates, cases where an elected member doesn’t provide his PAN number, but the candidate’s movable assets are more than Rs 5 crore.