Income Tax Dept. Unwilling to Disclose Funding of Political Parties

There is a danger in such a lack of transparency in political funding and how Govt. organs set up to hold parties in power, are actually protecting interests of powerful political parties.

Income Tax Dept RTI

An RTI request was filed buy a RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, who had approached the Income Tax Department seeking income tax returns filed by political parties over the last ten years.

The Income Tax Department, in response to this has clarified that its Central Public Information Officer does not maintain information about political parties’ income tax returns. The officer, then went on to state that the IT Dept. is not obligated to share such information. However, the the officer previously stated that she did not possess such information in the first place.

“The applicant is hereby informed that, the requested information is not held as such, by the CPIO [Central Public Information Officer] as registered information nor is the requested information required to be maintained as such by the CPIO, under extant rules or regulations,” read the RTI response by I-T Department.

This is contradictory to the The Central Information Commission (CIC) order in 2008, which ordered that the tax returns of political parties should be disclosed under the transparency law.  AN Tiwari, who was previously Information Commissioner, highlighted how  political parties do need large financial resources to carry out a number of functions, and ordered disclosure of their income tax returns.

“The CPIO gave a totally contradictory reply to this RTI application. First she claimed that she does not hold the information. She also claimed that the information is not available in the desired form as explained in the RTI application. She cited a much-abused para from the CBSE judgement of the Supreme Court in support of her denial. Then she also claimed that five out of the 10 exemption clauses are applicable to the information sought,” Nayak told PTI.

Nayak highlighted the dangers of such a lack of transparency in political funding, and how Govt. organs set up to hold parties in power, are actually protecting interests of powerful poltical parties. He stated that his reasons for filing the RTI have been twofold: “a) to check whether the IT Department takes any action on the IT Returns that political parties file to ascertain the veracity of the claims they make about their incomes and tax liabilities or otherwise and b) to ascertain whether the IT Department continues to abide by the order of the CIC issued in 2008 that the IT Returns of the political parties must be made public under the RTI Act.”.

He mentions how withholding such information, and encouraging undisclosed money, has a corrupting influence, and causes irreversible harm on the institutions of the government. Nayak has stated that he will be filing a first appeal highlighting all the contradictions in the CPIOs reply. “This matter deserves to be escalated to the CIC as this is a stark example of the roll back of the transparency regime established under the RTI Act.” – He states.

Read: Focus on Privatization, Health and Infrastructure in the Budget 2021

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