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Exclusive: After demonetization Narendra Modi sets sights on benami properties, deals

A truck driver looks out at the construction site of a residential apartment building by Indian property developer DLF Ltd. in Gurgaon January 27, 2010. Shares in DLF Ltd, India's top listed real estate firm, rose more than 3 percent on Thursday after it reported a sequential rise in quarterly profit, signalling a recovery in the realty market was gaining momentum. Picture taken January 27, 2010. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: BUSINESS)




Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given enough indications on various occasions about his intention to combat the black money menace in India by adopting stringent actions against people involved in benami properties and transactions.

And, to make it successful, unlike in the past, the Modi government has already cleared the ground making amendments in the original Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988.

The provisions of the amended act came into force on 1 November 2016. It has given more teeth to the I-T Department to get cracking on benami properties and transactions, with a comprehensive tracking, identifying and finally taking stringent action against offenders.

Looking back at the Benami Transaction Act

More than two decades ago, in 1993-94 and 1994-95, two alternative budgets were presented by Delhi-based Citizens’ Parliament comprising 230 eminent citizens, including politicians from diverse political parties barring the Congress and the BJP.

Amended Benami Transaction Act

The legal framework for dealing with benami transactions in the old Benami Transactions Act was weak and nothing much was achieved. Now, the amended act empowers the I-T Department to inquire into any person, place, documents or property during an investigation into any matter related to a benami property transaction.

“The amendments have made the act stricter. Apart from imprisonment and penalty up to 25 percent, the benami property will be confiscated. The property rights would go directly to the Centre, and the government can make use of the property as it wishes purportedly to help rural development plans. Now action will be taken against both the actual owner and the property holder under a bogus name,” a senior I-T official said.

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