GST levied on RTI applicant

An RTI applicant has been asked to pay the goods and services tax (GST) for getting information from the Madhya Pradesh Housing and Infrastructure Development Board here under the transparency law.

Exercising his right to know, anti-corruption activist Ajay Dubey had sought details of expenditure on the renovation of the office of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera), Madhya Pradesh, from the board.

To his surprise, the board asked him to pay the central GST and the state GST at the rate of nine per cent each, according to official documents.

Dubey paid Rs 43 – Rs 36 as photocopy charges for 18 pages (at the rate of Rs 2 per page), Rs 3.50 as CGST and Rs 3.5 as SGST, the documents show.

“It is unfair and illegal for a public authority to charge CGST and SGST for supply of information under the Right to Information Act. I will appeal against this before the appropriate authority,” he told PTI.

The GST Council, led by finance minister Arun Jaitley, had in January this year recommended “to exempt supply of services by way of providing information under the RTI Act from GST”.

While hearing a case in February, the transparency watchdog, the Central Information Commission, had said a public authority cannot quote a price for the information, treating it as goods or service of saleable nature.

“Besides, giving information is not a service, being transparent is the inherent duty of the public authority, and the central public information officer can only collect the cost of copying charges so that the government exchequer is not affected. Therefore, the demand for the GST charges made by the central public information officer is illegal and unreasonable,” the order by central information commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu had said.