In a major step by Narendra Modi government to curb the use of black money in India, the Income Tax department revealed on Tuesday that it has identified over 400 Benami transactions and attached properties worth Rs 600 crore in about 240 cases, according to a report by news agency PTI. “The Income-tax Directorates of Investigation have identified more than 400 Benami transactions up to May 23, 2017. These include deposits in bank accounts, plots of land, flat and jewellery,” said an official release.
Even though the Benami prohibition law was first enacted in 1988, it actually took over 28 years to implement it. Now, the Modi government is keen to implement the new Benami Act in an effective manner with visible outcomes on the ground, in effect, a crackdown has been unleashed. So far, it has dedicated 24 Benami Prohibition Units (BPUs) which were set up across the country last month, as per an ANI report. The crackdown against Benami properties has been a well-planned step by the government. Here’s how the government made it possible:
1. The Income Tax department started initiating actions under the new Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 from November 1 last year. According to this act, Benami property includes movable or immovable property, tangible or intangible property, corporeal or incorporeal property.
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2. The law empowers provisional attachment and subsequent confiscation of Benami properties. As per the law, seven years of jail time and a fine can be imposed on the beneficial owner, the benamidar, the abettor and the inducer to Benami transactions.
3. The government started acting aggressively against the Benami property holders after setting up the BPUs. “Immovable properties have been attached in 40 cases with total value of more than Rs 530 crore in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” the tax department told PTI.
4. Apart from this, searches were conducted on 10 senior government officials in the last one month in a bid to ‘unearth black money earned through corrupt practices and introduce accountability and probity in public life’. The latest raids took place in six cities of Uttar Pradesh covering 15 locations and four officers of the state Government.
5. During these searches, the I-T department found many defaulters. In one case in Jabalpur, a driver was found to be the owner of land worth Rs 7.7 crore. The beneficial owner was a Madhya Pradesh-based listed company, his employer.
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6. Meanwhile, in another case in Rajasthan, a jeweller was found to be the beneficial owner of nine immovable properties in the name of his former employee, a man of no means.
7. These searches were conducted by the department to ensure that any economic misdeed is immediately identified and actions as per law follow. The entire procedure was supervised by those 24 units that are under the overall supervision of the Principal Directors of Investigation in the Income-tax Department to enable swift action and follow up.