The Income Tax department that comes under the Ministry of Finance has refused to share the details of goods, their value, amount of cash including the actual value of diamonds, which have been seized by the department from Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. The I-T department excused itself saying that the information, if disclosed, would endanger the life or physical safety of individuals and might impede the process of investigation.
This reporter had filed an RTI with the Ministry of Finance seeking the details of the seizure, which includes cash and diamonds that the IT department had claimed to have seized from Modi and Choksi. Both are accused in the multi thousand crore worth PNB scam. The government of India has proclaimed them to be fugitives.
However, in its reply, the I-T department, while invoking section 8 (1) (G) and 8 (1) (H) clauses, stated that the information sought, if provided, would either endanger the safety of persons involved or impede the process of investigation. It further stated that no presence of a bona fide public interest was established by the information seeker nor there was any substantive or cogent reason to seek the information. “The very purpose of the RTI was to strengthen the citizens through information which increases the accountability of the public servants, but, in this case, no such motive could be discerned”, the reply signed by Ashish Kumar Pandey, Central Public Information Officer, DDIT, Mumbai, states.
The information sought under RTI was limited to the details of the property, goods seized from Modi and Choksi which in any case was being shared with the media “unofficially” by I-T department. No information regarding the source behind the seizures or the whistle blower was sought.
Anti- corruption crusaders claim that the DDIT wing of the IT department, which is based in Mumbai and is investigating the scam, has been “planting” source based stories in the media claiming that it had seized among others, 170 pieces of high value painting, more than 30 immovable properties and currency from hundreds of lockers.
“The information sought was limited to the goods that the IT has claimed to have seized from the duo in much publicised raids. The information sought would not have harmed anyone, except the scamsters perhaps. I do not understand that how will this information (how much the IT has seized from the duo), if it was made known to the public, would impede investigation. The reply only shows that the IT department is trying to hide information,” a former IT commissioner said.