Saturday, June 3, 2023

Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust:Delhi High Court stays CIC order directing CBDT to provide RTI information

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The Delhi High Court has put a stay on the orders by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to direct the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) for providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act which is related to Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

The Central government has set up the  Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust for construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 2019 Ayodhya judgment.

The CIC in its order of November 30, 2022, reversed the orders of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), CBDT and Appellate Authority, CBDT which had denied the information to one Kailash Chandra Moondra.

The CIC while dealing with Moondra’s second appeal, directed the CBDT to share the copy of the complete application that was filed by the trust for getting exemption/deduction under Section 80G(2)(b) of Income Tax Act for its donations.

The CBDT was also instructed by the CIC to provide the copy of the trust deed of the trust which was filed with the application.

Justice Prathiba M Singh stayed the order after the CPIO, CBDT moved the Court challenging the CIC directions.

The Court said that it has seen that CIC had failed to take up the fact that information pertaining to income tax records is exempted under Section 138 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 which is a special law.

The judge also added that the CIC did not issue any notice to the trust whose information was being sought and that the RTI application related to a third party and was held by the CBDT in fiduciary capacity, thus exempted under the RTI Act.

Justice Singh also added that the further CIChas not mentioned  the reason to reverse the orders of the CPIO, CBDT and Appellate Authority in the order.

“In view of the above, the Petitioner i.e. CPIO, CBDT has made out a prima facie case for grant of interim relief, the balance of convenience lies in its favour and irreparable injury would be caused to it if the interim relief is not granted. Accordingly, impugned order dated 30th November, 2022 which is stated to be received by the CPIO, CBDT on 3rd January, 2023 shall remain stayed till the next date of hearing. No coercive steps shall be taken against the CPIO, CBDT pursuant to the same,” the Court ordered.

The court has also given notice to the RTI applicant and have left it to the CPIO, CBDT to consider whether the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust ought to be impleaded as a respondent in this matter.

The matter will be considered next on May 23.

Advocates Zoheb Hossain, Vipul Agarwal and Parth Semwal appeared for the CPIO, CBDT.

None appeared for the Respondent. 

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