When an RTI applicant, exercising his right to know, sought information under the transparency law, he was asked to pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) for getting information.
Anti-corruption activist Ajay Dubey had sought details of expenditure on renovation of office of Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), Madhya Pradesh, from the board. In return, the board asked him to pay Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and the States Goods and Services Tax (SGST) at nine per cent each.
The GST Council, in January this year, suggested “to exempt supply of services by way of providing information under RTI Act, 2005 from GST.”
Even Central Information Commission (CIC), in February, had said public authority cannot quote a price for information, treating it as goods or service of sellable nature.
“Besides, giving information is not even service, being transparent is the inherent duty of public authority and central public information officer (CPIO) can only collect the cost of copying charges so that the government exchequer is not affected. Therefore, the demand of GST charges made by the CPIO is illegal and unreasonable,” transparency watchdog commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu had said in the order.
Despite all this, Dubey was made to pay Rs. 43 – Rs. 36 as photocopy charges for 18 pages (at the rate of Rs 2 per page), Rs 3.5 as CGST and Rs 3.5 as SGST.
“It is unfair and illegal for a public authority to charge CGST and SGST for supply of information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. I will appeal against this before the appropriate authority,” Dubey told PTI.
It is unfortunate that a person has been asked to pay tax for something over which he has a right. Under RTI, people can seek information from the government and it is the government’s duty to act transparent and provide with desired information.
Credit: Hindustan Times