Can a wife seek details of her husband's income using Right to Information? According to the Central Information Commission, the answer is 'yes' as the appellate body has partially accepted a woman's appeal to procure details about her spouse's income under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
In a partial acceptance of the woman's plea, the Commission has asked the Income Tax Authority to inform her about the generic details of the net taxable income and the gross income of her husband as available for the period 2017-18 within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
In the order dated November 6, 2020, Information Commissioner Neeraj Kumar Gupta, while dealing with a second appeal filed by the woman, however, said the details or the copy of income tax returns and other personal information of her husband need not be disclosed to her.
The Commission relied on judgments of the Supreme Court and high courts in accepting the appellant's application partially.
The appellant had earlier filed an application under the RTI Act before the Income Tax Officer, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She had sought photocopies of income tax returns filed by her husband. With the IT department refusing to provide her with the information, she filed a first appeal on January 14, 2019, requesting that the details sought by her be provided to her. She filed a second appeal before the Commission on the ground that information had not been provided to her.
The CIC referred to the judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the Sunita Jain vs Pawan Kumar Jain and others, where the court had stated that “While dealing with the Section 8(1)(j) of the act, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the appellant and the respondent No 1 are husband and wife, and as a wife she is entitled to know what remuneration the respondent No 1 is getting.”
It also referred to the ruling of the Bombay High Court in the matter of Rajesh Ramchandra Kidile vs Maharashtra SIC and others, which stated that, “In a litigation, where the issue involved is of maintenance of wife, the information relating to the salary details no longer remain confined to the category of personal information concerning both husband and wife, which is available with the husband, hence accessible by the wife.”
The commission, however, observed that the information sought by the appellant regarding copies of income tax returns of her husband is personal information of third party, which cannot be disclosed under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.