The Big Secret: What’s really there in Sonia's tax returns?

What does Sonia Gandhi have in her income tax returns that she doesn't reveal?

That question arises after she airily brushed off an application from a Right to Information activist who sought details of her income-tax returns for 10 years from 2000-01 to 2010-11.

The Times of India reports that V Gopalakrishnan, a Chennai-based RTI activist, filed an RTI application with the Income Tax Department seeking details of Sonia Gandhi’s tax returns from 2000-01 to 2010-11.

The Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, New Delhi, who is also the chief public information officer (CPIO) wrote to Sonia Gandhi in January to seek her response to the request for release of information pertaining to her tax records.

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi doesn't think her income tax returns are a matter of public interest. Munir uz Zaman/AFP

But Sonia Gandhi declined permission for the release of the information, saying that disclosure of such private information to a third party, even if ostensibly made under the guise of transparency in public life, amounted to unwarranted invasion in the privacy of the individual.

The information that an assessee submits to the Income Tax department was confidential and private in nature and could not be disclosed as per Section 138 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, she is reported to have said.

The report notes that Sonia Gandhi also cited “security risk” as a consideration behind her reluctance to disclose the information – and added that there was “no public interest" involved in disclosing such information.

The Times of India adds that this was the second time that the CPIO had rejected such a petition from Gopalakrishnan for information on Sonia Gandhi’s income tax returns. On an earlier occasion, a similar application had been rejected even without seeking Sonia Gandhi’s response. After Gopalakrishnan went in appeal, the appellate authority said that by not seeking out a response from Sonia Gandhi, the CPIO had ignored the possibility that she might be willing to disclose her personal income-tax information.

So, let's get this straight. Even the Prime Minister discloses his assets every year, but Sonia Gandhi, the real power behind the throne, will not?

And, Mrs Gandhi, you're so wrong that there isn't any public interest in knowing details of how well you're doing. There palpably is.

Of course, in normal circumstances, such details come under the realm of confidential information. But in a democracy such as ours, in the interests  of transparency of government, there ought not to be high walls surrounding the personal assets of our elected leaders. Even if they are only puppeters who pull the strings.

So, Mrs Gandhi, will you please go public with the details now? And also let us know what "security risks" are involved in making such information public.

Updated Date: Feb 24, 2012 10:19 AM

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