Lok Sabha on 27 July 2016 passed the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015. The Bill seeks to amend the Benami Transactions Act, 1988.
The bill prohibits benami transactions and provides for confiscating benami properties.
• Amend the definition of benami transactions
• Establish adjudicating authorities and an Appellate Tribunal to deal with benami transactions
• Specify the penalty for entering into benami transactions.
It expands the definition of benami transaction by including following
• Transaction is made in a fictitious name
• Owner is not aware of and denies knowledge of the ownership of the property
• Person providing the consideration for the property is not traceable
Earlier, it defined benami transaction as a transaction where a property is held by or transferred to a person, but has been provided for or paid by another person.
In specific cases will be exempt from the definition of a benami transaction. These include cases when a property is held by
• A member of a Hindu undivided family, and is being held for his or another family member’s benefit, and has been provided for or paid off from sources of income of that family
• A person in a fiduciary capacity
• A person in the name of his spouse or child, and the property has been paid for from the person’s income
• Section 58 empowers government to exempt the genuine properties of religious organisation like a church or a mosque or a gurdwara or a temple from the action. But the exemption to such entities cannot be a pretext for tax evasion.
Definition of Benamidar
• It defines benamidar as the person in whose name the benami property is held or transferred, and a beneficial owner as the person for whose benefit the property is being held by the benamidar.
• Under the Act, an Authority to acquire benami properties was to be established by the Rules.
Four Authorities for conducting Inquiry
The bill seeks to establish four authorities to conduct inquiries or investigations regarding benami transactions and they are
• Initiating Officer
• Approving Authority
• Adjudicating Authority
Work of Initiating Officer
• In any case, if he/she believes that a person is a benamidar, he may issue a notice to that person.
• The Initiating Officer may hold the property for 90 days from the date of issue of the notice, subject to permission from the Approving Authority.
• At the end of the notice period, the Initiating Officer may pass an order to continue the holding of the property.
• If an order is passed to continue holding the property, the Initiating Officer will refer the case to the Adjudicating Authority.
Work of Adjudicating Authority
• The Authority will pass an order on whether or not to hold the property as benami after examining all documents and evidence relating to the matter.
• Based on an order to confiscate the benami property, the Administrator will receive and manage the property in a manner and subject to conditions as prescribed.
• To hear appeals against any orders passed by the Adjudicating Authority, the Bill also seeks to establish an Appellate Tribunal.
• Appeals against orders of the Appellate Tribunal will lie to the high court.
• Rrigorous imprisonment of one year up to seven years, and a fine which may extend to 25% of the fair market value of the benami property. The previous penalty under the Act for entering into benami transactions was imprisonment up to three years, or a fine, or both.
• Specifies the penalty for providing false information to be rigorous imprisonment of six months up to five years, and a fine which may extend to 10% of the fair market value of the benami property.
• Certain session courts would be designated as Special Courts for trying any offences which are punishable under the Bill.
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Where: Lok Sabha
When: 27 July 2016