Give details of husband’s gross income to wife for interview: CIC to CPIO

In a ruling that could set a new precedent in marital matters where a partner seeks child support, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Thursday ordered the Center’s Public Information Officers (CPIOs) to provide “details generic taxable net income/gross income” from husband to wife within fifteen days.

The couple are from the city of Jamnagar, Gujarat.

The case is related to the income tax department, which is why the CIC was approached by the caller.

The CIC has issued instructions to the CPIO, Office of the Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, Jamnagar regarding disclosure of generic details

Details or copies of tax returns and other personal information of third parties need not be disclosed to the caller, noted Saron Punhani, the information commissioner. But in disputes involving the maintenance of the wife, information relating to the husband’s income no longer remains confined to the category of personal information concerning both the husband and the wife.

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“This order breathes new life into women who are fighting in court to obtain child support. We receive many cases where the court asks the claimant to find details of the husband’s income through the Right to Information (RTI). Their ITR request was denied because income tax information is considered personal information that cannot be revealed. Now, the CIC ruling allows women to know their husband’s income through net taxable returns,” said Pankti Jog, executive secretary of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, an NGO that runs an RTI helpline.

According to Jog, while it is easy for a wife seeking alimony whose husband is a government employee, in cases where the husband is in private employment, the wife ends up receiving very little alimony because the actual income of the husband is not revealed.

The Appellant filed an online RTI request dated October 21, 2020 to obtain her husband’s financial information for the valuation years from 2013-2014 to 2020-21 in order to defend her matrimonial case pending before court and to seek a fair amount of child support for herself and her two minor daughters under the Domestic Violence Act 2005 and the Hindu Marriage Act 1954.

It relied on the Rahmat Bano case, authorizing the disclosure of the husband’s gross income as well as judgments of superior courts touching on the aspect of the right to privacy; right to maintenance and that of the scope of the RTI law.

The CPIO reiterated the denial of the information and maintained that the third party had categorically denied the disclosure of the information concerning him. He further argued that the appellant may be the legally married wife of the third party, but under the RTI Act she is a third party and therefore the information cannot be provided to her.

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