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The income-tax (I-T) department has provisionally attached actor Shah Rukh Khan’s farmhouse in Alibag, a beach town in Maharashtra.
The attachment notice was issued to Déjà Vu Farms under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions (PBPT) Act in December.
Confirming the development, a senior I-T officer said under Section 24 of the Act, if the investigating officer believed that the person was benamidar, he (the officer) could issue the attachment notice to that person or the property’s beneficial owner (if his or her identity was known).
According to the law, the attachment of the property could be for at most 90 days from the date the notice was issued, he said.
The circle rate of the attached property is Rs 146.7 million. However, the market price would be five times more, said another I-T official.
Considered a luxury property, the farmhouse is spread over 19,960 square metres and has amenities such as a swimming pool and private helipad.
An email sent to Khan’s company Red Chillies Entertainment and Kolkata Knight Riders’ chief executive officer on January 24 remained unanswered despite several reminders.
The major allegation against Khan is that he had applied for purchasing agricultural land for farming, but instead constructed a farmhouse there for personal use.
“The said transaction falls under the definition of benami transaction as per the Section 2 (9) of the PBPT Act, where Déjà Vu Farms has acted as benamidar for the ultimate benefits of Khan. Thus, the actor is a beneficiary for the said under the prescribed law,” said I-T investigation report, submitted to the adjudicating authority, while seeking provisional attachment.
Business Standard has reviewed the copy of the attachment and the investigation report.
The report says the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act debars transfers of agricultural land to non-agriculturists without the permission of the collector or the state government.
Since Khan could not have purchased the land in his own name, Déjà Vu was used as a front for farming.
Citing the filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the I-T department said Déjà Vu Farms was incorporated by two shareholders — Srinivas Parthasarathy and Somasekhar Sundaresan — in 2004. In December 2004, the share transfer certificates were signed by the first shareholders in the name of Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan. The first director was replaced by three directors — Ramesh Chhiba, Savita Chhiba, and Moreshwar Rajaram Ajgaonkar on the same day, the report noted.
Khan gave an unsecured loan of Rs 84.5 million to Déjà Vu Farms.
Since it was a piece of agricultural land during the time of representation, Ajgaonkar declared himself an agriculturist. Accordingly, the additional collector allowed the purchase of the land on condition that it would be used for farming within three years.
In 2011, Namita Chhiba was appointed director of Déjà Vu in place of Ajgaonkar.
The I-T investigation said that to date, the company had not shown any income from farming. The report suggests all the unsecured loans from Khan were used by Déjà Vu for purchasing land.
The report said that Ramesh Chibba, Savita Chibba, and Namita Chibba were Khan’s father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law, respectively.
The only source of income of the farm was by way of the loan advanced by Khan to his company, which ultimately was owned by the actor himself.
“Any person aggrieved by the order of the adjudicating authority can file an appeal to the appellate tribunal within 45 days from the date of the order. An appeal against the order of the tribunal may be preferred to the high court within 60 days,” explained official cited above.
The issue became prominent when Raigad District Collector Vijay Suryawanshi said a bungalow purportedly owned by the actor was among 87 properties on which his office had sought legal opinion so that it could take action for coastal regulatory zone violations.
The finance ministry said earlier this month that the I-T department had stepped up action under the PBPT Act, which provides for provisional attachment and subsequently confiscating benami properties, whether movable or immovable.
It also allows for prosecuting the beneficial owner, the benamidar, and those abetting benami transactions, and it may result in rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of the property.
The statement added that the department had set up 24 dedicated benami prohibition units under its investigation directorates all over India.
- Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions (PBPT) Act came into force with effect from November 2016
- Attracts rigorous imprisonment up to 7 years; penalty up to 25% of property value
- Income-tax department had set up 24 dedicated benami prohibition units in May 2017
- Provisional attachment has been made in 900 cases under the PBPT Act
- These include lands, flats, shops, jewellery, and cash
- So far, the value of properties is over Rs 35 billion, including immovable assets of over Rs 29 billion
- Provisional attachment of Déjà Vu Farms is the first big case against actor Shah Rukh Khan
- The circle rate of the farmhouse is Rs 146.7 million