The BJP-ruled Haryana government has given Election Commissioner (EC) Ashok Lavasa and his family members a clean chit in a case of alleged stamp duty evasion referred to it by the Income Tax (IT) Department.
On December 27, The Indian Express had first reported the IT Department’s inquiry into the transfer of an apartment in Gurugram from Novel Lavasa, wife of Ashok Lavasa, to his sister Shakuntala Lavasa for alleged evasion of stamp duty.
The Department had flagged “discrepancies” between the income tax returns of Novel Lavasa for the financial year 2017-18 and registered transfer deeds of the property to Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary and Financial Commissioner in November last year.
While Novel Lavasa’s returns, according to the IT Department, show that she sold the first floor of the four-storied building in Gurugram to Shakuntala Lavasa for Rs 1.73 crore, the registered transfer deeds reflect that she gifted the property to her husband on December 27, 2018 and Ashok Lavasa, in turn, gifted the same property to his sister, Shakuntala Lavasa, in January 2019.
Since gift of immovable property between spouses and between blood relatives (parents, children, grandchildren and siblings) does not attract stamp duty in Haryana, no stamp duty was paid on the above transfer, the IT Department had informed Haryana government and sought a probe.
However, Haryana’s Financial Commissioner of Revenue and the Deputy Commissioner of Gurugram replied last month stating that Rs 10.42 lakh had been paid as stamp duty through a supplementary deed on September 16, 2019.
The supplementary deed, a copy of which has been seen by The Indian Express, states that Novel Lavasa sold the Gurugram property to Shakuntala Lavasa for Rs 1.73 crore and the same was not shown in the transfer deeds dated 27.12.2018 and 21.1.2019. To rectify this “error and omission” and to “avoid all disputes about the ownership” of the property, stamp duty of Rs 10,42,200 was paid on September 16, 2019, the supplementary deed further states.
“After payment of Rs 10,42,200 as duty…there is no evasion of stamp duty,” says the letter sent by the office of Revenue Commissioner of Haryana to the IT Department in December.
The IT Department, in response to the clean chit, has asked the state government to clarify whether such “corrections and rectification” are allowed under the law. The Haryana government has also been asked to provide a copy of the supporting documents submitted by the Lavasa family for the said rectification.
The Lavasa family, including Ashok Lavasa, have denied evasion of stamp duty. Questioning the timing of the inquiry, Shakuntala Lavasa had said that “baseless allegations” are being levelled against her family only after her “brother’s dissent”.
As one of the three ECs, Ashok Lavasa, on five occasions, opposed the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP president Amit Shah on charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct during the Lok Sabha elections.
Meanwhile, responding to The Indian Express news report Wednesday on I-T report alleging cash payments and tax evasion by members of Lavasa’s family, Novel Lavasa said the I-T Department’s investigation was “tainted by vicious illegality”. Among the allegations in the IT report on the Lavasa family are cash deposits amounting to Rs 4.93 lakh after demonetisation; Rs 46.65 lakh paid in cash for construction of a building in Gurugram; a payment of Rs 9.57 lakh to the builder routed through the bank account of domestic help.
“This does not seem to be a report but a compendium of lies and is replete with malafide imputations intended to hurt our reputation and is not meant for the purpose of collection of any tax,” Novel Lavasa wrote in an email.
“I and my family members strongly deny each and every allegation…The investigation that has been carried out over the last several months is a glaring instance of arbitrary roving inquiry amounting to ‘tax terrorism’ where the tax department is engaged in a vicious effort to destroy reputations of people.
“Instances of issuing notices without DIN in blatant violation of procedure notified by the Department of Revenue, were brought to the notice of all concerned. I didn’t receive any response to these complaints despite the new arrangement being publicised at all levels of the Ministry of Finance,” she further wrote.
Novel Lavasa also said, “The fact that the entire investigation process is driven by collateral and malafide design is evident from the fact that the investigative officers have focused on non-tax matters like the manner in which I was appointed independent director in reputable companies and whether stamp duty was paid on a property transaction, which was eventually established beyond doubt by the relevant state authorities.”
Her son Abir Lavasa said in an email: “The so-called conclusions are premeditated and malicious and motivated with a view to tarnishing our image and harm the future of the members of the family. All my ITRs have been filed in accordance with law and I have paid all taxes as due and as advised by my tax consultant.”
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