In a crackdown, the income tax (IT) department in Punjab has attached benami properties worth Rs 417 crore in the past year. IT officials said here on Wednesday that this is 10% of such properties valued at Rs 4,500 crore attached across India.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, is aimed at curbing black money transaction in real estate dealings. The stringent provisions of the Act calls for the beneficial owner or benamidar and any other person who abets or induces any person to enter into a benami transaction with rigorous imprisonment up to seven years and a fine of 25% of the fair market value of the property attached.
As many as 2,240 plots measuring 7.7 lakh square yards were attached in Punjab in 2017-18, the first financial year since the inception of the Act.
LANDSHARKS IN DEEP WATERS
In a case involving a coloniser with properties over 150 acres in benami names in Hoshiarpur, the entire property was attached under Section 24 (4) of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988. After confirmation by the IT appellate, it became the first such property in the country to be confiscated.
The government can now auction the confiscated property. An authority set up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is adjudicating benami cases and orders have to be passed within a year of attachment of the property. If the attachment is upheld, the IT department confiscates the property.
In another case of colonisers in Ludhiana and Amritsar, plots worth Rs 50 crore were attached. In these cases, the property was bought in the name of employees with meagre earnings and working on the instructions of the beneficial owner or the employer. In most such cases, the benamidars have filed affidavits stating they were ignorant of the purchase of such properties in their names and have no objection if the government takes over the properties.
The IT department has set up 24 benami prohibition units to implement the Act across the country barring Jammu and Kashmir.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act is in effect since May 19, 1988, but the rules were not prescribed hence the Act could not be administered. With the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, coming into force since November 1, 2016, the aim is to ensure that benami transactions for 28 years also don’t go unpunished.
Benami transaction is an arrangement where a property is transferred to (or is held by) a person, the consideration for such property has been provided (or paid) by another person and the property is held for the immediate or future benefit, direct or indirect, of the person who has provided the consideration.
The transaction is considered a benami transaction if the deals are in a fictitious name, the owner is unaware of or denies knowledge of the ownership or the person providing the consideration for the property is not traceable or unable to further give the sources of payment or income.
A suspected benamidar is served a notice on source of funds by an initiating officer. If the answer is unsatisfactory, action is initiated.
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