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IAS officers exploit loophole to evade stamp duty
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Over 200 IAS and PCS officers of the Punjab cadre have got more than 50 acres of land registered in the name of a cooperative housing society without paying a single rupee as stamp duty.

The land, bought through a property dealer, falls in villages Mullanpur and Shingariwala in Chandigarh’s periphery. The society, the members of which include the state’s Chief Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, and almost all the top IAS and PCS officers of the state, is headed by Mr D.P. Reddy, the Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Punjab.

While members of the IAS-PCS Officers’ Cooperative House Building Society ‘managed’ to get the land registered without paying the requisite 6 per cent stamp duty (amounting to over Rs 1 crore), revenue officials at the Majri block have taken possession of these registries for deficiency in payment of stamp duty and forwarded these to the Registrar (Additional Deputy Commissioner, Ropar in this case) for further action.

Under normal circumstances, documents for registration are not entertained at all if stamp duty is not paid. However, in this case, the sale deeds were registered and then ‘referred’ under Section 47A of the Registration Act to the Registrar for adjudication.

The tehsil office was supposed to ‘impound’ the sale deeds and forward them under Section 33 of the Stamp Duty Act for non-payment of stamp duty. “What they have done is to make a case of ‘deficient payment of stamp duty’ while actually it should have been ‘non- payment of stamp duty”, said a source.

Justifying non-payment of stamp duty, the general secretary of the society, Mr Sarvjit Singh, who is Director, Rural Development and Panchayats, Punjab, said a 1948 notification of the Punjab government had exempted cooperative housing societies from payment of stamp duty.

“However, this Act was amended in the 1970s to lay down that cooperative housing societies coming up in urban areas would have to pay stamp duty. Only societies belonging to members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes were exempted from payment of stamp duty in urban areas. For cooperative housing societies in rural areas, there was no amendment and our housing society falls within a rural area. We are just taking advantage of the rule,” said Mr Sarvjit Singh.

The Society has also sought relaxations from the Punjab Capital Periphery Control Act. According the New Periphery Control Act, “colonisation” is not allowed within a 10 km periphery of Chandigarh and the land bought by the society members falls within this range.

Interestingly, society members while seeking change-in-land-use from the Department of Urban Housing have stated that they would be able to serve the state better in case they have houses nearer to Chandigarh. It is a different matter that many members of the society already have houses either in Chandigarh, Mohali or Panchkula.

That the society has tied up with a private builder for buying of land has also been questioned from the point of view of the Conduct Rules for Officers according to which collaborations leading to personal benefits are not allowed.

“We have not tied up with a property dealer but with the Universal Development Trust run by him,” stated Mr Sarvjit Singh.

Taking a cue from the IAS brethren, IPS officers of Punjab have also formed a cooperative housing society and tied up with a Delhi-based private builder for setting up a housing project in Mohali. These officers have reportedly asked the builder to give them space within his colony for their houses.

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