Hyderabad: In a recent order, the Central Information Commission has said that a husband is not entitled to seek information regarding bank details and income tax returns of his wife, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005.

Information Commissioner, Neeraj Kumar Gupta, said that the filing of the I-T returns by an individual with the I-T Department is not a public activity.

The case started with the appellant filing an application under the RTI Act before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) seeking name and branch address of all the banks where his spouse was having an account during the financial years 2012-2013 to 2017-2018. "The information was requested financial year-wise, the date of opening and closure of each bank account concerned, and, if any of these accounts are still functional till the date of disposal of this application, then information regarding their functional status," the appellant had asked.

The appellant contended before the commission that he was seeking information about his legally wedded wife, and therefore, the CPIO should have invoked Section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005. Further, he submitted that the information regarding her bank details and income tax returns should be disclosed.

The CPIO said that the appellant was seeking clarification on information which is personal in nature and therefore CPIO of the Income Tax claimed exemption under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005.

After hearing the arguments of the appellant, the CIC mentioned the details of Vijay Prakash vs UOI and Others case, dated 1 July, 2009, where it has been clarified that in a private dispute between a husband and wife, the basic protection afforded by virtue of the exemption from disclosure enacted under Section 8(1)(j) cannot be lifted or disturbed unless the petitioner is able to justify how such disclosure would be in 'public interest'. In the matter at hand, the appellant has not succeeded in establishing that the information sought is for a larger public purpose.

"It is in the nature of an obligation which a citizen owes to the state viz. to pay his taxes, this information cannot be disclosed to the applicant in the absence of any larger public interest", the commission said.

In the end, the commission, after considering the factual matrix of the case, was of the opinion that in the absence of any larger public interest in the matter, the appellant is not entitled to seek information regarding bank details and income tax returns of his wife which are exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005.

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