Summoning income tax returns does not violate article 21

Summoning income tax returns does not violate article 21

The Telangana high court held in its recent judgment that the direction to produce income tax returns in court will not violate the right to privacy enshrined under article 21 of the constitution. The high court held that these documents are government documents accessible to others.

Facts of the case

The suit was filed by a company where they are seeking a declaration that property purchased by them in the name of the defendant was Benami property, as the sale consideration was actually advanced by the company. The defendant was the additional director of the company, in whose name the property was purchased. Later, he was removed from the directorship of the company. However, he refused to return such property by claiming at its own.  In this backdrop, the suit was filed. In reply to it, the company filed an interlocutory application to summon the defendant’s income tax return to prove that he has no financial capacity to purchase the property. The trial court dismissed the application by relying on the decision of the high court of Kerala in Raju Sebastian & ors v uoi which held that demanding information about income tax return will violate the right to privacy under article 21 of the constitution.

Allowing the revision, the high court held the decision in Raju Sebastian case has no applicability in the instant case. It is essential to produce the income tax return to decide whether the defendant has the financial capacity to purchase the property or not. If the same is produced before the court, the same does not violate article 21 of the constitution as they are government documents and are accessible to others referred to an earlier decision of the high court in pantakota Surya Appa Rao v penakota seethayam

Article 21 read as follows

“No person shall be deprived of his or her life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”

The right to life enumerated in Article 21 is not restricted to fortification of limb or facility but embraces the right to life with human dignity and all that goes along with it, explicitly the bare necessaries of life such as adequate sustenance, clothing and shelter over the head and conveniences for reading, writing and expressing oneself in assorted from freely moving about and mixing and socializing with fellow human beings and that any form of torture or cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment would be offensive to human dignity and constitute an inroad into, to the right to live and therefore, prohibited by Article 21 unless it is in accordance with procedure prescribed by law and which procedure also should stand the test of reasonableness and non-arbitrariness.


It is a well-known fact of our fiscal society that huge sums of unaccounted money are in transmission jeopardizing its very fabric. In a country which has embraced high rates of taxation a major percentage of the unaccounted money should normally fill the Government coffers. Instead of doing so, it distorts the economy. Therefore, in the interest of the communal, it is only right that the final authorities should have sufficient powers to prevent tax evasion. Hence income tax returns are public documents and they can be summoned by the Court. In view of the above, the order of the Court below cannot be sustainable and is liable to be set aside.


eStartIndia Team

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