Mumbai: Stamp Duty Muddle: Flat Owners Harassed


Flat owners told to pay stamp duty arrears of earlier tenants

Nauzer Bharucha | TNN

Mumbai: Thousands of flat owners queuing up everyday to take advantage of the state government’s stamp duty amnesty scheme have been left totally confused due to the lack of clarity in its implementation. As per the scheme, which commenced in June, flat owners have until September 8 to pay stamp duty at the rate that was applicable when the property was bought.

But what comes as a major jolt to many is a little known 2006 circular issued by the state inspector general of registration and controller of stamps which holds that the
current owner is liable to pay the unpaid stamp duty of the previous occupant of the flat at the current market value.
“If there has been a chain of transactions involving a flat over the past two decades and no stamp duty has been paid as required under the sale deed, the present owner must pay the stamp duty on all the earlier sale deeds,’’ said Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association. “Not many people know that such a circular exists,’’he added.

A senior official of the stamp duty and registration department at the old Custom House in south Mumbai told TOI that it was the duty of the owner to find out all the details of the property that he\she was purchasing.
Amnesty Scheme

The amnesty scheme was announced early this year. People who had evaded stamp duty on their property purchase agreements can now regularise their transactions with a token penalty of Rs 500 for stamp duty of Rs 25,000 and a Rs 1,000 fine for stamp duty over Rs 25,000. Once the scheme ends on September 8, residents will have to pay a 2% penalty on the total duty amount per month from the date of the flat’s purchase, with the maximum limit being 200%. WHOSE DUTY IS IT? Flat Owners Told To

Pay Levy That Previous Buyers Of Their Homes Didn’t Clear

Mumbai: Although a flat owner may have paid his stamp duty, he is liable to also pay the duty that previous owners of his flat did not pay, said a state government official who sits at Old Customs House. However, he hinted that discussions were on within the department to see how this issue could be resolved.

A 2006 circular calls for the payments on previous agreements. “Any legislation with retrospective effect is regressive. What makes this especially odious is that it holds the current incumbent of the property liable for taxes on past transactions that earlier did not attract such stamp duty,’’ said an angry Suresh Mehta, resident of a cooperative housing society in the western suburbs. “It also threatens him with confiscation of his property just because he is a soft target.”

The issue surrounding the 2006 circular has come up while stamp duty defaulters are being identified so that they can clear dues under a current amnesty scheme. “Unlike other amnesty schemes which are aimed at earning revenue from tax dodgers and willful defaulters, this one aims at making legitimate duty payers declared as defaulters for no fault of theirs,’’ Mehta added.

Chembur resident Sanjay Kothary, one of the thousands wanting to take advantage of the amnesty scheme, said, “How can any flat or shopowner produce documents as far back as two to three decades on transactions he was not a party to? In most cases, he may not even have been born and the parties that were involved may have died or emigrated, making it impossible to get sale deeds.’’

Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association, pointed out another lacuna.

“People who have purchased flats between 1980 and 1985 are being told they have to pay stamp duty on the current market value. The department’s strange logic is that between 1980 and 1985 there was no provision to collect stamp duty on the sale agreement, but it was to be recovered at the time of conveyance as per the current market value,’’ he said.

For example, if a person purchased a flat in 1980 for Rs 1 lakh, the stamp duty then would have been a mere Rs 11,000. But now, the department wants him to pay the stamp duty on the present market value. If the flat costs Rs 1 crore today, the duty works out to a hefty Rs 5 lakh.

Prior to July 4, 1980, parties tended to enter into an agreement where people grossly undervalued properties. It was only later that the government introduced the ready reckoner rates to determine the true value of property.

Prabhu also complained that the allotment letters issued by societies to flat owners were being rejected by the stamp office. On the other hand, allotment letters issued by Mhada were being accepted.
WHAT IS STAMP DUTY
Stamp duty is a tax collected by the state government on different documents executed in the state as per the Bombay Stamp Act, 1958. The Act specifies 63 documents, one of them being the agreement for property sales

Before December 10, 1985, stamp duty was only Rs 5 on the agreement for sale. But the second document executed after the transaction—sale deed/transfer deed/conveyance/possession letter—carried a stamp duty of: 10% for upto Rs 50,000, 12% for Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh and 15% for over Rs 1 lakh

On December 10, 1985, the government amended the Bombay Stamp Act by merging the agreement for sale and sale deed. Stamp duty on residential properties was reduced to 1% for property worth upto Rs 2.5 lakh, 4% for Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, 6% for Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7.5 lakh, 8% for Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh; and 10% for over Rs 10 lakh

In 2004, the state reduced the maximum slab to 5% for all properties valued over Rs 5 lakh

AMNESTY SEEKERS’ PROBLEMS

While pre-1980 and post-1985 agreements can be stamped on market rates at time of purchase, officials want to use prevailing rates to stamp 1980-85 agreements

State has not issued directives for documents executed prior to December 10, 1985

People don’t want to pay duty on past transactions

Serpentine queues. Clerks refuse to accept documents

People claim that the officials themselves areconfused.

DOCUMENTS NEEDED

To avail of the amnesty scheme, fill up the prescribed application form available with various stamp offices located at Old Customs House, Fort; MMRDA headquarters, Bandra-Kurla Complex; and Collector of Stamps, near Chembur flyover

Notarised affidavit giving details of the property Original property agreement

One piece of evidence proving date of execution of document, such as electric bill, BMC assessment bill, phone bill, share certificate, ration card, passport, etc

Society letter showing area of flat, year of construction, floors, city survey number, etc

Rule is ‘morally unfair’

Kumar Sambhav | TNN

For the residents of Green Field society in Lokhandwala Complex Andheri (West), Vijay Ranglani is the person who is supposed to answer their housing queries. But on the amnesty scheme, the secretary of the society has no answers.
“People are asking a lot of questions, but I am unable to give a convincing answer. What can I do when things are unclear even from the law’s side?’’ asked Ranglani. “Nobody is clear on which road to follow. We have approached the MMRDA and the Stamp Collector’s office, but they also are confused.’’

He said flat owners are unwilling to pay duty on previous agreements. “People say it is morally unfair for them to pay for agreements not related to them,’’ he explained.

Ranglani said the laws should not be so complicated. “The process should be simple. If a person has not paid the duty on the last agreement, he or she should be fined for that only and the flat should be regularised,’’ he added.

Even God cannot save this country: Supreme Court


Even God cannot save this country: Supreme Court


    
5 Aug 2008, 1902 hrs IST,PTINEW DELHI: “Even God will not be able to save this country,” a fuming Supreme Court on Tuesday said while slamming the government for its refusal to amend the law for launching criminal prosecution against those who illegally occupy official houses. ( Watch )

    “We are fed up with this government,” the apex court said, adding “They don’t have the guts to differ with the opinion of the clerks.”

     “Even God will not be able to save this country. In India even if God comes down he cannot change our country. Our country’s character has gone. We are helpless,” a bench of Justices B N Aggrawal and G S Singhvi observed.

     The apex court said PILs are being filed before it by people who are vexed with the approach of the government on various issues.

     “You complain about judicial activism when you are in power. When you are not in power you come to us for remedy,” the bench remarked.

     The bench gave vent to its anger as the Additional Solicitor General Amarender Saran bluntly told the court that the Union government has decided not to amend Section 441 IPC (criminal trespass) for prosecuting squatters of government accommodation in the country.

    The government took the stance that the existing provisions provided under the Public Premises Act was sufficient to evict those illegally occupying government accommodation. Moreover, it claimed that out of 99,100 government houses only 300-odd dwellings were under unauthorised occupation for which had been made to evict them.

     But this did not satisfy the apex court which said the government does not have the guts to take on the offenders

Insuarance companies taken to task by Supreme Court


‘Indifferent’ insurance companies face SC ire

Court Slams ‘Take It Or Leave It’ Attitude On Claims

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN


New Delhi: There’s good news for motor vehicle owners who are mandatorily required under the law to insure their vehicles but face indifferent attitude from insurance companies when they seek compensation for accidental damage. Not only has the Supreme Court sympathised with their suffering, it has also lashed out at them for adopting a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude.

Whenever a claim is put forth before an insurance firm to compensate the cost of repairs of an insured vehicle which has met with an accident, they arrive at a figure at their whim and fancy and put the onus on the owner to either take it or leave it, the court said.

A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and H S Bedi said Section 146 of the Motor Vehicles Act made it mandatory for owners to take insurance cover for vehicles and failure to do so was a punishable offence.
It was obvious that insurance companies enjoy a dominant position due to this stringent provision and act in an unreasonable manner, the SC said, adding they often fix a value of a particular insured good, but disown that very figure on one pretext or the other when they are called upon to pay compensation.

“This ‘take it or leave it’ attitude is clearly unwarranted not only as being bad in law but ethically indefensible,” the bench said. The insurance firm was bound by the value of the vehicle at the time of renewal, it added.

The case in question related to the insurance policy for a Tata Sumo for which Oriental Insurance Company was paid a fee reducing every year due to depreciation in the value of the vehicle. At the time of the policy’s last renewal, the value of the vehicle was accepted at Rs 3,54,000 in 2002.
Shortly after the renewal, the car met with an accident and the repair cost was put at Rs 3.37 lakh.

But the insurance firm assessed the compensation at Rs 1.04 lakh and when the owner disputed it, it did not pay a penny. The district consumer forum refused relief, accepting the insurance firm’s stand that the vehicle’s driver did not have a licence.

The Madhya Pradesh state forum allowed Rs 1.04 lakh. But the national consumer forum directed the insurance firm to pay Rs 1.80 lakh with interest.

The SC, allowing the appeal of vehicle owner Dharmendra Goel, asked Oriental Insurance Company to pay Rs 3.44 lakh as compensation. As the accident took place seven months after renewal of the insurance policy, it reduced the estimated value of the vehicle by Rs 10,000.

Cyber Laws : Innocent citizens Vulnerable



As it is common citizens of India are a vulnerable lot. An ordinary citizen has NO protection against the depredations of politicians, Bahubalis, police or the Bureaucracy.

Laws , rules and regulations are framed in such a fashion as to give absolute authority to the Police and the Bureaucracy. Lawyers are belyond the reaches of law and the justice from the judicial system is beyond reach of the ordinary citizen.

    Cyber Laws is  another tool by  which a honest law abiding citizen can be hooked,hung, and harassed.

ED:

Extracts:

Caught In A Net

Rethink cyber laws to provide protection to users

In the wake of the bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, the so-called terror e-mail from the organisation that claimed responsibility for the bombings, Indian Mujahideen, was traced by the police to an American national’s home in Mumbai, via his Internet Protocol (IP) address.

An IP address is an identification number assigned to all computers that connect to the internet, commonly by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The man has pleaded innocence, claiming that his internet connection had been hacked by terrorists.

Under Indian law, however, it seems that the police can proceed against him. This means that any user can be held liable for illegal activity originating from his IP address, e-mail address or computer, unless he can prove otherwise. So, the burden of proof is on the user, not on the prosecutors. This appears to be an extension of the argument that one is responsible for any illegal activity occurring in one’s house. The Information Technology Act, 2000, doesn’t shed much light on the issue of culpability.

The internet exists, legally speaking, in a vast grey area. Across the world, countries are trying to come to terms with phenomena as distinct as distribution of pirated materials on the Net to identify theft and cyber crime. German law states that people are responsible for what happens on their internet connections. In other countries, the law is less clear. In the UK, cyber law experts agree that the prosecution need only prove that the communication came from a particular system.

Once this is achieved, the onus is on the individual to prove his innocence. The US appears to provide greater protection, but the experience of users sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for downloading pirated music proves that it is difficult to convince judges that one was indeed the victim of a hack.

Technically, it is possible for computer forensic experts to determine whether an e-mail originated from a particular computer through a unique number. In which case, even if a communication is traced to a person’s IP address, it can be proved that it did not originate from his computer.

But this depends upon information stored by the ISP of the consumer, which is difficult to get and is deleted after some time, depending on legal requirements. This case in Navi Mumbai demonstrates how much our legal system and legal systems across the world are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological innovation.

It’s time laws are rethought with the internet in mind to ensure that innocent people aren’t punished for crimes they didn’t commit.

Techie jailed due to Airtel mistake: police

Nov 3, 2007, 11:33 GMT

Pune, Nov 3 (IANS) Police here have washed their hands off the wrongful detention of a 26-year-old techie from Bangalore, blaming telecom major and Internet service provider Airtel for giving them incorrect information. The company has promised action.

Lakshmana Kailash K. was picked up from Bangalore Aug 31 on the suspicion of having posted insulting images of Chhatrapati Shivaji on Internet networking site Orkut. He was brought to Pune and put behind bars. It was later found that he was innocent.

The police will take up the matter with Airtel for providing misleading information that led to the wrongful arrest of Lakshmna, Assistant Commissioner of Police Netaji Shinde told IANS.

‘We did our investigations on the IP address provided to us by Airtel. It is not our fault and Lakshmana should take Airtel to court and not us,’ he said.

An Airtel spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of this incident and deeply distressed by the severe inconvenience caused to the customer. We are fully cooperating with the authorities to provide all information in this regard and we are in touch with the customer.

‘We have robust internal processes, which we review frequently to make them more stringent. We have conducted a thorough investigation of the matter and will take appropriate action.’

While media reports said Lakshmana was released only three weeks after the other suspects were arrested, police maintained that the techie was not held longer than necessary.

Mumbai: Snippets- MHADA, Potholed Highways, Dr Hemant Jhoshi, Primary teachers


Mhada & Moolah

Mhada, the housing authority of the Maharashtra government, is involved in so many scams that it should probably be called the Maharashtra Hoax And Deceit Authority or some such. Housing activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu, who once headed the body, shared an anecdote about its brazen corruption at a recent public meeting held to protest against forced redevelopment in the city.

Many years ago, while returning home late at night, Prabhu happened to cross a vacant Mhada plot and was amazed to find hutments being built there. Without revealing his identity, the Mhada president went up to the men and asked them why they were encroaching on government land. Replied one man, “Oh, we have all the permissions.

We have paid off everyone in Mhada, right up to the top. We always build these huts in the middle of the night.’’

A shocked Prabhu called the police, who, after a bit of sleuthing, identified the Mhada employee responsible for the encroachments. When Prabhu called him to give him his suspension letter, the man, far from being ashamed, had an answer ready.

“Sir, I’m going to retire in another three months,’’ he said, “and I haven’t even completed the required target of 75 huts. I have got only 25 built so far.’’

When a puzzled Prabhu asked him what that meant, he replied, “Once we retire, our earnings stop. So, many of us make money in this way just before retirement.’’

We’re speechless. Actually, no. This is Mhada, after all.

Rain Check

For marketers looking for opportunities to build their brands, every occasion, happy or tragic, is a fitting one. A few days ago, a corporate that manufactures door locks and cupboards, among other things, teamed up with a film production house to distribute raincoats to street children on July 26, the third anniversary of the killer downpour that submerged Mumbai in 2005.

The corporate’s rider: it planned to make the kids run from Juhu to Bandra sporting the rain gear imprinted with its logo. Partnering NGOs too seemed to have no qualms about the children sprinting this long distance in the torrential rain that was then sweeping the city.

When we sent a message to the organisers, decrying their absurd plan, we got a reply—interspersed with embarrassed smileys—saying that they were only going to hand out raincoats to random passersby. We don’t what they eventually did; what we do know is that the idea of milking a tragedy in which hundreds died (and not for want of a raincoat) left us with a bad taste in the mouth.

Whistle Blower
When our correspondent visited the clinic of Virar-based child specialist Hemant Joshi recently, the doctor told her after the interview that he had a gift for her. The journo replied, a little warily, that she did not accept gifts.

The doc laughed and said that the gift wasn’t anything elaborate, only a whistle.
Just as the puzzled scribe was trying to decode that one, he explained: a whistle and a knife are the two selfdefence implements he strongly believes every woman in Mumbai who works and travels late hours should carry—one to summon help when in distress and the other to stick into an attacker. It doesn’t stop at philosophy:

Dr Joshi presents a whistle and a knife to every woman who visits his clinic or joins his staff. Unfortunately he’d run out of knives, but our journo enjoyed blowing the whistle in office.

Smile, Don’t Honk

The traffic police’s sense of humour gets curiouser, but is most welcome. After the gem about ‘Stop at Red and Go at Green—except when eating watermelon’ comes this juicy bite. Drink + driving = Inviting trouble.

So for 7 days no daroo-varoo, no bike-vike.’ Keep it up, Baijal’s Boyz… It cheers us up as we wait interminably for signals to change after having snailed our way through rainy slowdowns and security barriers.

Full honks also for having learned the correct adjective: ‘Drunk driving’, not the commonly used, ‘drunken driving’.

Down Memory Lane
When our education reporter, who’d just finished writing about the SSC toppers of this year, moved on to an assignment on yesteryear’s scholars, she discovered something amusing. The news reports this paper carried over a quarter of a century ago were more or less identical to the ones today—profiles of the toppers, questions about their favourite books, their hobbies, extra-curricular activities and, of course, the number of hours of study they put in everyday.

If there was any difference, it was in the date (ancient history) and the colour of the paper (yellowing). The Times, they evidently aren’t a-changing.

(Contributed by Sukhada Tatke, Bella Jaisinghani, Sandhya Nair, Bachi Karkaria and Anahita Mukherji. Illustrations by Deepa. Compiled by Radha Rajadhyaksha)

Welcome to the ‘potholed highway’

It Is Neglected Despite Being A Part Of The Centre’s Golden Quadrilateral Project

Sandhya Nair I TNN

Mumbai: The Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway 8, which connects the city with New Delhi, is in a pathetic state. Motorists dread driving on this road that has been nicknamed the ‘potholed highway’.
“The road has vanished and what you come across is only potholes on the entire stretch between Mira Road and Virar,’’ said a Vasai-based businessman Ajay Modi, who takes this route every day from his Vile Parle residence to Vasai, where he has a factory.

The pothole-studded stretches have led to several big and small accidents and have also become the major cause for traffic jams. Though monsoon has added to the condition, motorists said no attention had been paid to the highway for years together. “I have been travelling on this route for the past five years.

ll I can say is that it is getting worse by the day. On every stretch, it is a bumpy ride,’’ said Mira Road resident Mihir Desai, who also takes this road to Virar to his factory.

Vasai resident Rudolf Fernando has almost stopped taking out his car. “To be stuck in a traffic jam for two to three hours has become normal. The potholes are growing bigger, so are accidents. But the authorities are yet to wake up to the problem,’’ said Fernando, who now prefers to travel by train.

Though the highway is part of the Centre’s Golden Quadrilateral project that was launched by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the road gets little or no attention. Several associations and regular commuters have been writing to the local municipal agencies, but reportedly to no avail.

“We have written several times to the local civic bodies to repair the roads but no one is listening,’’ said Modi. As several civic agencies are in charge of different stretches of the highway, each one passes on the buck to the other.

Authorities at Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) and Vasai-Virar Municipal Councils said maintenance of the highway was the responsibility of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The NHAI officials, in their turn, insisted that the highway must be maintained by the states through which the road passes.

The National Highway 8 passes through Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The commuters also complained that traffic police are never around. “On Sunday, after a heavy vehicle met with an accident, there was a major traffic jam near Mira Road around 12 at night. But there was not a single policeman. I could reach my destination in Virar only at 6 in the morning,’’ said Sayed Qureshi from Virar.
sandhya.nair@timesgroup.com

SMART RIDE

MSRTC to make long distance travel easier

Plans 200 Semi-Luxury Buses From Kalyan, Thane, Panvel

Chittaranjan Tembhekar I TNN


Mumbai: The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) plans to start 200 long-distance, semi-luxury buses from Dadar, Borivli, Thane, Vashi, Kalyan and Panvel by October. This will make commuting across the Mumbai metropolitan region a lot easier.

The Vaari bus plan will prove to be a boon, especially when the suburban train traffic experiences megablocks. “Railway blocks due to maintenance work or floods will not inconvenience commuters, as our buses will assist them during difficult times,’’ said MSRTC vice-chairman and managing director Om Prakash Gupta.

“We are already plying 28 such buses within Thane, Dadar, Borivli, Bhayander and Panvel and are going to add 50 new ones with a capacity of 68 passengers by the end of the month. With no change in fare, suburban commuters are responding enthusiastically,’’ said Gupta.

When asked if it would pose stiff competition to the King Long buses, Gupta said the buses will not have airconditioning but will have more comfortable seating arrangements. While a King Long bus charges up to Rs 35 for a commute between Thane and Dadar, the MSRTC’s Vaari bus will charge only Rs 20.

“Our fares will not be high though the buses will be semiluxurious,’’ Gupta said, adding that the long-distance buses would not even halt at every bus stop.

The MSRTC has plans to introduce more AC buses with CNG fuelling system. At present, AC buses pl between Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Thane.

An agreement with Mahanagar Gas to set up CNG stations is being expedited so that more CNG buses can be added to the network. “We are giving final touches to the plan,’’ said Gupta, adding that the corporation had started showing profits since the last financial year.
toireporter@timesgroup.com

State govt bans non-academic work for primary school teachers

Mumbai: The state has directed officials to ensure that primary school teachers under local selfgovernment bodies should not be deployed for non-academic work.

“Except for works of national importance, like elections and census, teachers should not be deployed for non-academic purposes,’’ a government resolution (GR), issued on August 1, said.

The government has made it clear that even in the case of election and census-related duties, the work should be assigned only on holidays and during the ‘nonteaching period’.

In the recent monsoon session, the government had come in for flak from Opposition members over ‘burdening teachers with non-academic work’. The GR makes a mention of the same, saying “following a discussion in the legislature, the government was considering freeing teachers from non-academic work’’.

On December 6 last year, the Supreme Court ruled that teachers should not be deployed on non-academic duty during school timings, including election duties, census work and Pulse Polio campaigns.

However, eight months later, while authorities claim they cannot take action before receiving specific instructions from the state government, teachers continue to be deployed on electoral duties including revision of voter lists and issuing of photo passes to voters.

The government had in 1996 issued a circular making it clear that deploying teachers for nonacademic duties resulted in disruption of children’s studies, the GR said. AGENCIES

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