The Union finance ministry is seeking to keep the investigation wing of income-tax department outside the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005.
The ministry was prompted to do so as it was faced with an increase in the number of applications, often from the very people who were under scrutiny seeking to obtain information about cases being investigated by the department.
Interestingly, other investigation arms of the government such as the intelligence bureau, the research and analysis wing, and those under the revenue department such as the financial intelligence unit and the department of the revenue intelligence, are already outside the purview of RTI.
“Keeping the directorate-general of income tax (investigation) within the purview of RTI has created a strange situation, since we share information coming from other intelligence agencies (which are outside of the purview of RTI) at the regional economic intelligence committee, which is part of the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau. Since the investigation wing comes under RTI, it creates a situation where some of the information from the other agencies may come out in the public domain,” a revenue department official told Mint.
The official said the matter had been discussed by the revenue department with the department of personnel and training, the nodal department that deals with the issue.
Officials said the investigation wing has been responding to applications filed under RTI. “However, whenever we feel that some information is sought that cannot be put on the public domain, we try to use the secrecy clause in the RTI available under Section 8,” the official said but declined to divulge the number of applications which the department had received under RTI since the Act was notified.
The section dealing with secrecy allows a department to deny information if it felt that it would impede the process of investigation or prosecution of the offenders.
“We have found that an increasing number of people are using RTI to find the status of their tax-evasion petition and in some cases, they want to know the details of the search operations carried out by the department,” the official said.