Lok Sabha

July 27, 2016

Kalyan Banerjee speaks on The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015

Kalyan Banerjee speaks on The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015

Deputy Speaker, Sir, in The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, by Clause 3, you want to introduce that this Act may be called The Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988. This is what you want to do. But why are you not bringing in a new Bill? If the Bill’s title is ‘The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill,’ which is to further amend The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, why are you not bringing in a completely new Bill?

The original Act is The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, and now you are trying to amend it to The Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988. The latter is quite different. You are trying to bring in new things into an old Act. If so, why are you not bringing in a completely new Act?

Through you, Sir, I would like to draw the attention of the Hon’ble Finance Minister, and it is a great privilege the Hon’ble law Minister is also here. The Standing Committee of the Ministry of Finance in its 28th report, in Part-II, recommended bringing in a new Bill, a new Act. There is a total change of character here. What is the object, let’s see.

We have heard the speech of the Hon’ble Finance Minister in 2015 regarding bringing back black money, which is also benami. The first issue is, whether this money is coming through the backdoor process or through black money. Today, if I have white money, and if I want to transfer a property to anyone, it is not a benami transaction. A benami transaction happens if the source of the money has not been disclosed and cannot be disclosed, because it has been earned from illegal activities. The property purchased using money is then called benami.

I have a little experience about that. In 1989, I purchased a second-hand car. At that time, I had completed seven years of practice. The seller said that I will give you the documents after a few days, and I believed that. However, it was not given. In 1991, my car was stolen. Now, when the car was produced before the competent court, naturally, the owner had to apply for it. My name was not there as an owner. Then I had to take the help of the police commissioner, who sent his officers to get the documents. Ultimately, it was found that the gentleman who’s car it originally was, his domestic servant, who was staying in a remote village in Bihar, had taken it away with him to the village. This is an example of a benami property. This has to be stopped.

Sir, now I come to Clause 9. Part (1) says that “a person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Chairperson or a Member of the Adjudicating Authority unless” the person “has been a member of the Indian Revenue Service and has held the post of Commissioner of Income-tax or equivalent post in that Service” or “has been a member of the Indian Legal Service and has held the post of Joint Secretary or equivalent post in that Service.” Part (2) says that “The Chairperson and other Members of the Adjudicating Authority shall be appointed by the Central Government in such manner as may be prescribed.” Part (3) says that “The Central Government shall appoint the senior-most Member to be the Chairperson of the Adjudicating Authority.”

Seniority can be distinguished within the same cadre itself. How can you compare the seniority of an income tax officer and a district judge or legal service? Why is the Chairman’s position given to Income Tax officers? Instead of revenue officers it should be someone else. Income tax is not the main question here; this is a question of property.

Sir, in Clause 30 they have created an Appellate Tribunal to hear such appeal. Sir, with great respect, where is the provision to make such appeal? Sir, there should be a provision to prepare an appeal and if an appeal is prepared then in how many days can it be made? This cannot be mentioned in rule, it needs to be in the statute itself. And in that case I would request you that if an order is passed by the adjudicating authority then in that case the Appellate Tribunal should also have the power to pass an order.

A person also should be given justice. One may suffer from victimisation also. Therefore certain protection should be given against the order itself. Then time limit is not mentioned. But in case of the High Court, there is a time limit of 60 days to file an appeal. I will request that in the Bill itself at least give power to the apparent authority to pass any order.

Sir, the committee of Ministry of Finance, which has submitted a report that has said that they have highlighted a ground reality. Ground reality is in the rural areas where lands are purchased by cash; this has been done for decades together.

In the rural areas, it is very difficult for poor, illiterate people to keep dalils and deeds etc. It is really very difficult to get. So far the rural areas are concerned, it is difficult for the poor people who have purchased the property to keep the documents and instruments. Then we should take care that this property should not be brought within the scope and ambit of the Act itself.

Therefore, Sir, I will request to you kindly give thrust to the aspect whether the property is purchased or acquired by reason of any undisclosed money or tainted money. Apart from that if it is not purchased from the tainted money or undisclosed money this property should not be brought within this scope and ambit of the Act itself.

You have really given a completely new thought – except a few aspects, which I have pointed out; I appreciate that. I appreciate the intention of the Bill itself. I appreciate the mechanism which you have fixed up in this Bill itself. I have no doubt about that. But since you have given a new thought over the entire things it is better to bring a completely new code itself giving details of everything. With this, Sir, I am concluding.