The Statesman
New Delhi

NEW DELHI, 12 APRIL: Twenty eight MLAs and MPs have voluntarily disclosed their income tax returns (ITRs), but the returns of another 42 reluctant legislators, including 20 parliamentarians, may have to be disclosed by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) if the Central Information Commission (CIC) gives an order in favour of the NGO, Association of Democratic Reforms, which has appealed that their ITRs be made public.  

The 20 Parliamentarians include Mrs Maneka Gandhi (BJP), Mr Naveen Jindal (Congress), Mr Beni Prasad Verma (Congress), Mr Lalu Prasad (RJD), Kumari Selja (Congress), Mr Sachin Pilot (Congress), Mr Navjyot Singh Sidhu (BJP) and Mr Ajit Singh (RLD). 

Till now, there have been a total of two hearings with the CIC, based on the appeal filed by the ADR to provide copies of I-T returns of legislators for larger public interest. A larger bench of CIC, including three information commissioners, will be hearing ADR’s case on 16 April. The ADR wants ITRs of the 42 legislators to be disclosed. The list is based on disproportionate assets increase between two elections.  “Now, we have a database of 75,000 candidates. We have the ability to look at previous declarations as and when candidates file affidavits. By this we can see the increase in their assets and other differences,” said national coordinator of ADR, Mr Anil Bairwal. 

The ADR will appeal to the CIC for disclosure of the I-T returns of the 20 MPs, as according to the NGO, they have been hesitant in giving the details. The voluntary disclosure of ITRs by 28 MPs and MLAs on the appeal of ADR has only provided the NGO the necessary ammunition to reinforce  its appeal.  The Chief Information Commissioner, Mr Satyanand Mishra, had in an interview to The Statesman said though I-T returns is personal information, details of ITR can be made public. Mr Mishra had said: “This commission has held in the past that income tax returns are in the nature of personal information... Even personal information can be revealed if it is in public interest. It will depend on case to case basis. Normally income tax return is personal information. Whether it should be disclosed in respect of a particular person depends on the merit of that case. Unless we know what are the arguments offered by the party we cannot establish that it is in public interest. There is no ground rule as to whether this information can or cannot be disclosed.”

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