The Income Tax (I-T) Department has charged six family members of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, under the new and stringent anti-benami assets Act, and also served notices of attachment of assets, to Lalu’s MP daughter Misa Bharti, son-in-law Shailesh Kumar, his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, son and Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav and daughters Chanda and Ragini Yadav.
The provisional attachment order, accessed by PTI, has been issued under Section 24(3) (where the taxman thinks the person in possession of the property held benami, may alienate the property) of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2016 and Lalu’s kin have been identified as the ‘beneficiaries’ of the alleged benami assets.
Violators under the Act, enacted in 1988 but implemented from November 1, 2016, attract a rigorous imprisonment (RI) of up to seven years and fine up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of the property. The department has attached about a dozen plots and buildings in Delhi and Bihar, including a farm house and land in the Palam Vihar area, a residential building in the upmarket New Friends Colony area of south Delhi, nine plots on a 256.75 decimal land area in Phulwari Sharif area in Patna, where a shopping mall was being constructed, among a few others in the same area in Bihar’s capital. The department has said these alleged benami assets bear a deed value of about Rs 9.32 crore but the taxman has estimated their current market value at Rs 170-180 crores.
The order has also identified firms like Ms Mishail Packers and Printers Private Limited, AB Exports Pvt Ltd, Delight Marketing Pvt Ltd and AK Infosystem Pvt Ltd as the ‘benamidars’ in this case. The department has been investigating the case for quite some time and had carried out countrywide searches last month, against those who had a role or were linked with the purchase and sale of these assets. Bharti and her husband Shailesh, were also summoned by the department for questioning in this case in the past but the couple skipped the dates. Official sources said they are expected to be summoned again, before more assets in this case are attached similarly.
In Patna, Tejashwi dismissed the charges as ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ and said that they were mere political vendetta. The RJD chief, earlier, had put up a brave face after the I-T raids in this case, saying he was not scared and would continue to fight against the ‘fascist forces’. The department will now move for confiscating these assets, after getting approval from the Adjudicating Authority of the Act.
Benami properties are those, in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name (benamidar) the property has been purchased. The Act allows for prosecution of the beneficial owner, the benamidar, the abettor and the inducer to benami transactions. As per provisions of the Act, assets held benami after final prosecution, are liable for confiscation by the government without payment of compensation.
The action under this Act, is over and above the normal tax evasion probe and prosecution that the department will undertake against the accused, under the Income Tax Act, 1961, for charges of tax evasion. As per official data till May 23, 2017, the I-T Department had identified 400 benami transactions in the country and provisional attachment of assets was done in about 240 cases. “The market value of properties under attachment, is more than Rs 600 crores,” the I-T data had said.