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The Income Tax department has provisionally attached the Alibaug farmhouse of actor Shah Rukh Khan under the new Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2016, according to two senior tax officials familiar with the development. According to the tax probe, Khan, through Deja Vu Farms, made an application for purchase of agriculture land for farming in Alibaug, but subsequently converted the land into a farmhouse for personal use. This, the tax authority said, was a “benami transaction” under Section 2 (9) of the Act. The tax authority alleged that Deja Vu Farms acted as benamidar for Khan.
Under the Act, a benami transaction means any transaction in which property is transferred to one person for a consideration paid or provided by another person. The Act provides for provisional attachment and subsequent confiscation of benami properties, whether movable or immovable. It also allows for prosecution of the beneficial owner, the benamidar and the abettor to benami transactions, which may result in rigorous imprisonment up to seven years and a fine of up to 25 per cent of fair market value of the property.
Email, text message and phone calls to the official spokesperson of Red Chillies Entertainment, the firm owned by Khan, did not elicit any response.
The tax department alleged that Deja Vu Farms had so far not shown any income from farming activity. It also alleged that the firm had taken unsecured loans of Rs 8.4 crore from Khan for the purchase of land in Alibaug.
The provisional attachment by the tax authority will have to be ratified by the adjudicating authority of Income Tax after giving Khan a chance to present his arguments on the provisional attachment. In case the adjudicating authority confirms the attachment, Khan can challenge the order before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
The case pertaining to Deja Vu Farms came under the tax scanner last year after Raigad district collector Vijay Suryavanshi claimed that a farmhouse, allegedly owned by the actor along the sea in Alibaug, was among 87 farmhouses on which the collector’s office had sought legal opinion for action over alleged Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) violations.
Subsequently, a complaint was also filed at a Mumbai police station, alleging that Khan had violated the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act — it bars transfer of agriculture land to a non-agriculturist without the permission of the collector or state government.
The Alibaug farmhouse of Khan, according to the tax department, is spread over 19,960 sq metres and has amenities such as a swimming pool, beach and a private helipad.
According to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Gauri Khan’s father Ramesh Chibba, her mother Savita Chibba and her sister Namita Chibba are directors of Deja Vu Farms.
In the last one year, the tax department has stepped up action under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, which came into force from November 1, 2016.
The tax department has provisionally attached more than 900 benami properties including flats, shops, jewellery and vehicles worth over Rs 3,500 crore, including immovable properties of more than Rs 2,900 crore so far. A statement from the tax department in January said that provisional attachment of benami properties, amounting to more than Rs 150 crore, have been confirmed by the adjudicating authority in five cases.