Prohibiting Benami property transactions

One of the main contributors to ‘promoting ‘ generation of Black Money or unaccounted money, as also to breeding corruption and corrupt practices, is the system of indulging in ‘Benami ‘ transactions . Under these ‘transactions’, corrupt people and those in possession of ill gotten money through other illegal sources, cause properties transferred to persons for consideration paid by some other person . Such a system, to be precise, had been flourishing, giving a sort of impetus to real estate industry but at the cost of the country’s economy until the Government’s decision of demonetisation in 2016 and doing away with cash transactions in real estate dealings. It may be recalled that an intense desire in this direction was felt prior to it also resulting in the enacting of an appropriate Act by the Parliament in the year 1988 but the same apparently had no sharper teeth till the year 2016 when it was duly amended to ensure effective enforcement of prohibitions of Benami property transactions.
With this background and for containing such transactions which were seen as something of a routine practice and of alarming proportions in the State , the Jammu and Kashmir Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was passed in State Legislature in 2010 but more or less, it remained ineffective in the sense that its implementation was not even of lukewarm level . That the Act, in the process, had been rendered ineffective was adequately felt only by the State Administrative Council (SAC) under Governor Satya Pal Malik and the need of having the Act in more stringent content gained ascendancy. The intent was to effectively prohibit Benami Property transactions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir so that corruption and corrupt practices could indirectly also be countered. A law was drafted as if a replica of the Act passed by the Parliament after making amendments therein in the year 2016. The revised Act, therefore, came into force with effect from December13, 2018 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Under the revised Act of 2018 after repealing the one of 2010 , stringent provisions were incorporated for offenders . Those who violated the Act could be awarded a maximum jail term of up to seven years and a fine of 25 percent of the market value of the asset under the shoddy transaction. So far so good but even after more than five months after the enactment of the revised Act, post enactment process has yet to start . We do not know as to when the associated rules would be framed to give practical shape to the Act to become a tool to be used to prevent and stop Benami property transactions. With such a process of things being half done and half left, nursing of fear that the revised Act too may not meet the same fate as of the Act of 2010, cannot be ruled out. While this is the response of and the eagerness shown by the State Government even under Governor (President’s) rule towards such a sensitive issue , at the same time, there is nothing to prevent such transductions taking place unabatedly and consequently, corruption and corrupt practices are getting no feeling of even nervousness let alone checked to a large extent through fighting Benami property transactions. The resolve to fight corruption , therefore, remains confined only to empty rhetoric or for interesting debates and customary speeches by the politicians on selected events.
We are constrained to give vent to such apprehensions as we would like to know the reasons of putting to hold all for over five months, such post enactment necessary prerequisites , which could provide the biting teeth to the Act to be used for effective implementation in the State. The State Administration should have pursued the matter regularly all these five months to find out the developments in the matter. What was the purpose and the rationale behind repealing of the Act of 2010, if even after enactment of the new law , things had to remain in a stationary way, thus defeating the very purpose and the intent of the Law of 2018. Governor’s Administration has generated positive hopes in the people and it should come up to their expectations in not only fighting and strictly prohibiting Benami property transactions , corruption and corrupt practices but cause such properties to be seized and confiscated to send clear cut message to the ones dealing in such transactions.