New Delhi: Tax statements of a corporate group may be given under the Right To Information (RTI) Act as its privacy clause is limited to individuals and does not extend to organizations, feels chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah.

“We have given a decision that tax details of political parties can be disclosed under the Act. Corporate groups are more or less similar organizations. The privacy clause in the RTI Act section 8(1)(j) deals with privacy of “individuals" but does not extend to organisations. But the disclosure has to be decided on basis of merit in each case," he said.

Seeking transparency: Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah says disclosure has to be based on merit of each case. Habibullah says disclosure has to be based on merit of each case. Madhu Kapparath/Mint

However, he made it clear that such information cannot be sought directly from the private business groups but from a government department which holds it.

In a recent decision, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has directed the income-tax department to provide tax statements of Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, Escorts Ltd, Big Apple Clothing (P) Ltd, AAA Portfolio and promoters Naresh Trehan and Rajan Nanda to an applicant.

“Though it is not necessary, the appellant has also shown that a larger public interest of increasing public revenue and reducing corruption may be served by disclosure of the information, which would outweigh any harm to any protected interest," Gandhi ruled.

The decision of the commission came while hearing the plea of one Rakesh Gupta whose application seeking assessment records of the Escorts Group and its promoters between 1998-2006 from the Income Tax department was rejected.

The department rejected the disclosure citing five sections of the RTI Act which allow withholding of information if it has been forbidden to be published by court, is held in fiduciary capacity, could impede the process of investigation, is a personal information with no relation to public activity and relates to commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property.

Rejecting the grounds, Gandhi said it is extremely unlikely that there would be any information relating to 2005, which if revealed in 2009 could harm the competitive position of any of the third parties.