A person may not refuse to share generic details of his net taxable income/gross income with his wife in cases where matrimonial disputes are involved. In a recent order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed the Income Tax Department to inform the appellant about the generic details of the net taxable income/gross income of her husband within 15 days.
Details relating to assets, liabilities income tax returns, details of investments, lending and borrowing etc. come under the category of personal information. As per Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, such personal information is entitled to protection from unwarranted invasion. However, the Supreme Court has previously held in CPIO, Supreme Court of India vs Subhash Chandra Agarwal (20210) case that “conditional access is available when stipulation of larger public interest is satisfied.”
The appellant Sanju Gupta had filed an RTI application to know the details of her husband’s Gross income in FY 2018-19 and FY 2019-20, and his taxable income.
However, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Income Tax Department office of the Income Tax Officer, Bareilly, denied providing details under Right to Information (RTI) after failing to get the consent of her husband. The CPIO had asked Gupta’s husband whether the information may be disclosed.
Not happy with the CPIO’s decision, Gupta filed another appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). The FAA’s order, however, upheld the CPIO decision. Gupta then filed an instant Second Appeal before the CIC.
The CIC looked into some of its own past orders and judgements of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
In Vijay Prakash vs. Union of India (2009), the Delhi High court observed that in private disputes, the “basic protection afforded by virtue of the exemption (from disclosure) enacted under Section 8 (1) (j) cannot be lifted for disturbed.
In the Rahmat Bano case, the CIC allowed disclosure of gross income to the estranged wife on the ground of sustenance and livelihood of the family.
In Rajesh Ramachandra Kidile vs. Maharashtra SIC and Others, the High Court of Bombay (Nagpur Bench) had observed: “In a litigation, where the issue involved is of maintenance of wife, the information relating to the salary details no longer remain confined to the category of personal information concerning both husband and wife, which is available with the husband hence accessible by the wife.”
Taking into consideration previous judgements and orders of higher courts, the CIC directed the CPIO to “inform the appellant about the generic details of the net taxable income/gross income of her husband held and available with the Public Authority”
“The Commission directs the CPIO to provide the “generic details of the net taxable income/gross income” of the husband for the specified time period as contained in the RTI Application to the Appellant free of cost within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order,” CIC said in its order dated 19th Septemebr 2022.