A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Bombay High Court has alleged that purchasers of a 55,000 square metre property in Andheri area have evaded stamp duty worth crores by showing its rate as a mere Rs 80 lakh at the time of its registration.
The PIL states that the property passed from one purchaser to other and merely Rs 80,000 was paid towards stamp duty. It goes further alleges that instead of getting the property registered under a “sale-purchase” agreement in 2000, the purchasers got it registered under “development agreement”, showing the property’s value as Rs 83 lakh.
The PIL filed by 48-year-old RTI activist Sunil Kaushik, through advocate Vedchetan Patil states that the property was under dispute in 1981. However, a suit was filed thereafter in 1994. The plaintiffs in the suit — Dynamic Builders, Futura Builders and one Virendra Jhamb — paid Rs 83 lakh to the heirs of the property owner on April 8 1994. Consequently consent terms were agreed upon by the heirs over the property.
The PIL claims that Futura Builders underwent a change in partnership where in the partners retired and Niranjan and Surendra Hiranandani joined the company on January 1, 1996. “Futura Builders was a mere instrument carved out to escape the clutches of law and evade stamp duty,” the PIL alleges.
According to the PIL, Hiranandani’s entered the partnership firm without paying requisite stamp duty for the property. It goes on to stay that the property’s consent terms were registered in 2001 and the purchasers showed the value for the transaction of the property as Rs 83 lakh. The petitioner however said that in an RTI reply he was told that according to the ready reckoner rate provided by the state revenue department, the rate of the property was over Rs 85 crore. The PIL therefore alleged that a sum of Rs 8.50 crore was applicable as stamp duty on the property.
Kaushik claimed that the collector of stamps was informed of the “theft” and “undervaluation” but the department did not take action against the culprits.
Meanwhile, the PIL also states that a government resolution dated June 28, 2004 had declared rewards to people who would bring to the notice of the government cases of evasion of stamp duty. The government however cancelled the resolution in 2009. “It reflects the connivance of a few strong builders with government officials,” it alleged.
The PIL has therefore sought penal action against concerned officials. It has also sought appointment of an investigating team to probe into offences of stamp duty evasion.