The Income Tax department has registered over 230 cases and attached assets worth Rs 55 crore nationwide as part of its post demonetisation action under the newly enforced Benami Transactions Act. Violations of the Act, made operational from November 1 last year, attract a heavy penalty and rigorous jail term up to seven years. “A total of 235 cases and instances have been registered under the said Act by the department till mid-February. Show cause notices for attachment have been issued in 140 cases where benami assets worth Rs 200 crore are involved. “In 124 cases, benami assets worth more than Rs 55 crore have been provisionally attached till now,” an I-T report, accessed by PTI, said.
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The attached assets, officials said, include deposits in bank accounts, agricultural and other land, flats and jewellery, among others.
Post demonetisation on November 8 last year, the I-T department had carried out public advertisements and had warned people against depositing their unaccounted old currency in someone else’s bank account.
Such an act, it had said, would attract criminal charges under the Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, applicable on both movable and immovable property.
The I-T department is the nodal department to enforce the said Act in the country.
The decision to slap the stringent provisions of the Benami Transactions Act is being taken after analysing serious cases where the illegalities were blatant and suspect cash was deposited in either benami accounts or Jan Dhan or dormant accounts, an official said.
The taxman had initiated a nationwide operation to identify suspect bank accounts where huge cash deposits have been made post November 8 when the government demonetised the Rs 500/1000 currency notes.
Officials said the Act empowers the taxman to confiscate and prosecute both the depositor and the person whose illegal money he or she has “adjusted” in their account.
“Such an arrangement where a person deposits old currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 in the bank account of another person with an understanding that the account holder shall return his money in new currency, the transaction shall be regarded as benami transaction under the said Act.
“The person who deposits old currency in the bank account shall be treated as beneficial owner and the person in whose bank account the old currency has been deposited shall be categorised under this law as a benamidar,” a senior tax department official had explained earlier.
The Benami Act also allows for provisional attachment of such assets which can eventually be confiscated, the official said.
The Act also provides that the benamidar, the beneficial owner and any other person who abets or induces the Benami transaction, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a period ranging from 1-7 years.
“The benami amount in the bank account deposited post demonetisation will be seized and confiscated and the accused will also be liable to fine which extends up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of the benami property,” the official added.
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