The details of income tax exemption claimed by social and religious organisations controlled by the Dera Sacha Sauda, which were in public domain four years ago, have now been classified as “private”, an RTI query has revealed.
Replying to an RTI query filed by social worker Ramesh Verma, the Income Tax department’s Deputy Commissioner Office in Chandigarh said on September 29 that the information sought fell under the “third party” category, as mentioned in section 11 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The information sought under sections 11 and 8(1)(j) of the Act fell under the private category and had no relation to public interest, the office said. The Income Tax Office in Sirsa, however, had provided the tax details of the institutions linked with the Dera on July 11, 2013.
According to that information, the tax-free income of Dera Sacha Sauda, Begu Road, Shah Satnamji Marg, Sirsa, was Rs 29.18 crore during financial year 2010-11.
Shah Satnam Ji Research & Development Foundation’s tax-free income was Rs 16.52 crore. Parampita Shah Satnamiji Education and Welfare Society’s tax-free income was Rs 1.80 crore and Shah Satnamji Green and Welfare Force Society’s tax-free income was Rs 3 crore. All these organisations are based in Sirsa.
Asked about the Income Tax department’s classification of the organisations linked to the Dera as “private”, former chief information commissioner A N Tiwari said the tax exemption had been given by the government.
“This is a loss to the consolidated fund of India. People have the right to know about it,” Tiwari said. When asked if there had been any amendment to the RTI Act between 2013 and 2017 with regard to providing such information, Tiwari said there have been no changes.