SECTION 138 OF THE INCOME-TAX ACT, 1961 – DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION RESPECTING ASSESSEES TO SPECIFIED OFFICER, AUTHORITY OR BODY PERFORMING FUNCTIONS UNDER ANY OTHER LAW – DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION ABOUT TAXPAYERS TO MEDIA
OFFICE MEMORANDUM [F.NO.DIR.(HQRS.)/CH.(DT)/29/2014], DATED 1-1-2015
Instances have come to the notice of the Board where information pertaining to individual taxpayers has been published in the print media with specific reference to departmental sources. In some cases, even details contained in departmental documents seem to have been shared with the representatives of media.
Attention of all the officers and officials of the Department is drawn to the provisions of section 138 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 read with notifications issued under that section, which obligates that no public servant shall produce before any person or authority any such document or record or any information or computerised data or part thereof as comes into his or her possession during the discharge of official duties unless specifically authorised to do so in accordance with the notifications issued under section 138 from time to time.
The provisions contained in section 280 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 which provide that if a public servant furnishes any information or produces any record in contravention of the provisions of section 138(2) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, he or she will be punishable with imprisonment which may extend up to six months and shall also be liable to fine.
Privacy of taxpayer must be respected as the information respecting an assessee is held in fiduciary capacity and maintaining its confidentiality is a statutory obligation of the Department.
The above legal position is brought to the notice of all officers and officials of the Department for strict compliance. Any breach of the aforesaid statutory obligation will be viewed seriously by the Board and necessary action will be initiated.
All supervisory authorities must sensitise their subordinates about the statutory position and ensure that the Board’s directions are complied with both in letter and spirit.
This issues with the approval of Chairperson, CBDT.