A transaction where a property is transferred to a person for a consideration paid by another person is defined as a Benami transaction. As per Section 2(9)(A)(a) of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as “Act”), which states,
“2. (9) BENAMI TRANSACTION” MEANS—
(A) a transaction or an arrangement—
(a) where a property is transferred to, or is held by, a person, and the consideration for such property has been provided, or paid by, another person;”
The Act to prohibit Benami transactions was brought to prevent people from engaging in tax evasion, money laundering etc. The act and its provisions have made any Benami transaction a punishable offence and have resulted in the termination of any legal right to claim beneficial ownership in any Benamiproperty. Any authority can acquire a Benami property by following the process specified in the provisions of the code.
The Act of 1988 was amended under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, where several other provisions were made to ensure proper implementation. There were 72 Sections in the amended Act, which was later renamed the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988. The definition of a Benami transaction was broadened under the ambit of the amendment, along with stricter punishments, harsh fines, seizure of property and the establishment of an implementation mechanism.
The primary use of the Look Out Circular (“LOC”) is to monitor, trace and prevent the entry and exit of individuals, who are required by the law, and are under suspicion or have been declared as wanted by the law enforcement authorities. These circulars are used for effective monitoring of the targeted individuals.
In the case of Vikram Sharma & Ors. v. Union of India, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court stated that,
“16. …The power to suspend, even temporarily, a passport of a citizen, the power to issue an LOC, the power to ‘off-load’ a passenger and prevent him or her from travelling are all extraordinary powers, vested in the criminal law enforcement agencies by the statutory law. These are powers that are required under the law, to be exercised with caution and only by the authorities who are empowered by law to do so and then again only for valid reasons.”
In Suresh Nanda v. Union of India, the Delhi High Court while referring to Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, held:
“35. …There has to be application of mind by the authority to the relevant factors that would enable it to come to the conclusion that the impounding of the passport is in the interests of the general public. And then again, in the context of the criminal case which is still under investigation, this cannot be an opinion formed at one point in time. The public interest element will vary depending on the stage of the investigation. It cannot be said that as long as the investigation is not complete, it is not in public interest to release a passport. That would be giving too wide a power to the authority.”
LOCs have not been defined in the code, the issuance of these circulars shall be based on the cases and respective authorities, if they deem fit that the accused may leave the country to evade arrest or trial without appearing in the court despite the issuance of non-bailable warrants.
ISSUANCE OF THE LOC
The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, in the case of Sumer Singh Salkan, about the issuance of a LOC observed,
“The Investigating Officer (IO) shall make a written request for LOC to the officer as notified by the circular of Ministry of Home Affairs, giving details & reasons for seeking LOC. The competent officer alone shall give directions for opening LOC by passing an order in this respect.
The person against whom LOC is issued must join investigation by appearing I.O. or should surrender the court concerned or should satisfy the court that LOC was wrongly issued against him. He may also approach the officer who ordered issuance of LOC & explain that LOC was wrongly issued against him. LOC can be withdrawn by the authority that issued and can also be rescinded by the trial court where case is pending or having jurisdiction over concerned police station on an application by the person concerned.”
The authority to issue LOCs is exercised in line with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Office Memorandum (O.M.), first issued on 5 September 1979 and then revised on 27 December 2000, with a validity of one year from the date of issuance, or till the time limiting to one year until the purpose is served, after which the LOC stands terminated.
In the case of S. Martin, the Hon’ble Madras High Court held that LOCs can only be issued by the concerned authorities for offences which are cognizable as per the Indian Penal Code and other penal laws. Also, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the Sumer Singh Salkancase held; “Recourse to LOC can be taken by investigating agency in cognizable offences under IPC or other penal laws, where the accused was deliberately evading arrest or not appearing in the trial court despite NBWs and other coercive measures and there was likelihood of the accused leaving the country to evade trial/arrest.” It is pertinent to note that LOCs can only be issued for persons booked under cognizable offences, supported by the above judgments of Hon’ble High Courts.
NATURE OF OFFENCES UNDER THE ACT
The offences under the Benami Act are considered to be non-cognizable in nature. As mentioned in Section 61 of the Act;
“61. Offences to be non-cognizable – Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), an offence under this Act shall be non-cognizable.”
LOC – A BOON OR A WEAPON?
There are several instances where the Courts have expressed serious concerns regarding the abuse of the whole process of issuance of LOCs especially since there is a lack of legal codification of LOCs. In the case of Chandran Ratnaswami v. K.C. Palaniswamy & Ors., a LOC was found to be pending in the name of the petitioner, despite being no criminal investigations or proceedings against the petitioner. The concerned authority directed a re-investigation of the case just to keep the LOC alive. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held,
“There is no such thing like unfettered discretion in the realm of powers defined by statutes and indeed, unlimited discretion in that sphere can become a ruthless destroyer of personal freedom.”
Similarly, in the case of Priya Parmeswaran Pillai, the Delhi High Court quashed the LOC issued against Ms Pillai and held that the issuance of LOC, in this case, violates the Fundamental Rights of the petitioner, which the respondents or the authoritytermed the same as an ‘exceptional case’.
The exercise of LOCs remains contentious as the prerequisites set out by the Ministry of Home Affairs are highly discretionary. There are several instances where the courts have interpreted the opening of LOCs as false, vague or ‘in haste’ and have provided numerous guidelines and instructions to prevent the abuse of LOCs. A LOC restricts the person to travel, which is a fundamental right of a citizen and shall be exercised under the ambit of the law to prevent the brutal death of democracy. This would further increase the significance of the judiciary in its roleto prevent any unconstitutional damage to the democratic setup.
Cognizable offences are the only reason for the formation of a LOC, as held in S. Martin (supra) and Sumer Singh Salkan(supra), thus, non-cognizable offences shall not fall under the umbrella of LOC. The lack of legal codification of LOC occasionally may turn into a sword to satisfy personal enmity between parties; thus, raising a big question mark on the legal sanctity of the LOC and the same being used as a means to curb dissent.
Varun K. Chopra, Advocate practicing before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, New Delhi was assisted by Atharv Vyas, Aditya Bajaj and Akul Misra – students pursuing law. The views expressed are solely for academic purposes and based on prevailing laws, precedents and information available in public domain.
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Electricity connection cannot be denied only because dispute regarding ownership of land is pending: Gujarat High Court
The bench of Justice Supehia noted that the Petitioners were owners of the concerned agricultural land for which electricity was sought. However, it was observed that the electricity was denied on the ground that the Petitioners were illegally occupying Government land.
The Gujarat High Court in the case Yogesh Lakhmanbhai Chovatiya v/s PGVCL Through the Deputy Manager observed and has clarified that occupiers of a land cannot be denied electricity connection only because a dispute regarding ownership of the land is pending.
The bench comprising of Justice AS Supehia observed and referred to a division bench judgment stating that right and title and ownership or right of occupancy has no nexus with grant of electrical connection to a consumer.
In the present case, the petitioner current occupiers of the land and submitted that they were denied an electricity connection only because the land that they were occupying was in the name of the Government. However, the proceedings were initiated by the Mamlatdar against them u/s 61 of the Gujarat Land Revenue Code for removal of encroachment. Further, to bolster their contention, it was relied by the petitioner on an order of the High Court and Sec 43 of the Electricity Act, 2003 which mandates the supply of electricity to any occupier or owner of premises.
The Petitioners could be said to be ‘occupier’ of the land in question and the connection could not be denied by the Respondent.
The bench of Justice Supehia noted that the Petitioners were owners of the concerned agricultural land for which electricity was sought. However, it was observed that the electricity was denied on the ground that the Petitioners were illegally occupying Government land.
Further, the bench of Justice Supehia concluded while perusing Sec 43 that the provision stipulated that the licensee shall supply electricity to those premises where the application had been filed by the owner or the occupier. Consequently, a reference was made to the order of the Division Bench of the High Court in LPA No. 91/2010 wherein it was observed:
The Court stated that such power being not vested under the law with the company and as the company cannot decide the disputed question of right and title and this court is of the view that ownership or right of occupancy has no nexus with grant of electrical connection to a consumer.
While keeping in view of the aforesaid provisions, it was directed by Justice Supehia that the Respondent-Company to supply electricity connection to the Petitioners in the premises of the property at the earliest in accordance with the list maintained by the name containing the names of the Petitioners in the list.
ANALYSIANG SECTION 194R OF THE INCOME TAX ACT
Recently, Section 194 R was inserted by the Finance Act 2022, which came into effect on July 1st, 2022. CBDT made certain recommendations via Circular 12 from the day of the addition of this section, it has become highly debatable. Before touching the issues of this section, we need to understand the legal provision of section 194 R.
In simple terms, the new section mandates a person who is responsible for providing any benefit or perquisite to a resident to deduct tax at source at 10% of the value or aggregate value of such benefit or perquisite before providing such benefit or perquisite. The benefit or perquisite may or may not be convertible into money, but it must result from such resident’s business or professional activities. As per this section, tax will be deducted by business or profession on any benefits or perquisites of a person who is residing in India. The benefit or perquisite can be in the form of cash or kind, or partially in cash and partially in kind. Tax deduction will be 10 percent if the aggregate value doesn’t exceed INR 20,000. In such a case, tax will not be deducted. Such conditions will not be applicable in If the turnover of business doesn’t exceed INR One Crore, If the turnover of the profession doesn’t exceed INR fifty lakhs, For instance, if a person is a sales agent and he exceeds the target allotted by the company and receives a new car worth INR 5, 00,000/-the value of INR 5,00,000 will be taxed under the head of Profit.
The intention of this section is to expand the scope of deducting tax on benefits or perquisites and to increase transparency in the reporting of benefits and perquisites received by an individual. Because this particular incentive is in kind rather than cash, recipients of such kinds of transactions do not include it in their income tax return. As a result, inaccurate income information is provided. Such an incentive or bonus in kind ought to ideally be reported as income under the 1961 Income-tax Act (ITA). Also, according to Section 28(iv) of the ITA, any benefit or perk received from a business or profession, whether convertible into money or not, must be reported as business income in the hands of the receiver. Now Section 194(R) gives the right to the payee to deduct the amount, whether in cash or kind, arising out of business promotion.
The terms “benefits and perquisites” are not defined under the IT act. If they receive any such perquisites or incentives, whether in cash or in kind, they must deduct TDS. In cases where the benefit is wholly in kind, the person providing such a benefit or perquisite is required to pay TDS on the value of such benefit or perquisite out of his own pocket. In this case, benefits and perquisites are determined as per the value of the purchased price and manufactured price. However, no taxes to be deducted u/s 194R on sales discount, cash discount, or rebate are allowed to customers.
In the matter of ACIT Vs Solvay Pharma India Ltd, the court held that free samples provided by the pharmaceutical company for promotion purposes would be taxable income. As such, free samples cannot be treated as a freebie. The complimentary sample of medication serves solely to demonstrate its effectiveness and to win the doctors’ confidence in the high quality of the pharmaceuticals. Again, this cannot be regarded as gifts given to doctors as they are intended to promote the company’s goods. The pharmaceutical corporation, which manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products, can only increase sales and brand recognition by hosting seminars and conferences and educating medical professionals about recent advances in therapeutics and other medical fields. Since there are daily advancements in the fields of medicine and therapy taking place throughout the globe, it is crucial for doctors to stay current in order to give accurate patient diagnosis and treatment. The main goal of these conferences and seminars is to keep doctors up to date on the most recent advancements in medicine, which is advantageous for both the pharmaceutical industry and the doctors treating patients. Free medication samples provided to doctors by pharmaceutical corporations cannot be considered freebies in light of the aforementioned value.
Hence, under such circumstances, for such a sales effort, the pharmaceutical company may deduct its expenses. The promotion would, however, be taxable income in the hands of the receiver, and the pharmaceutical company would need to deduct TDS on it.
Another question that pops up is that in the case of gifts and perks received on special occasions like birthdays, marriages, and festivals, under such circumstances, Section 194R will only be applied if they arise out of business or profession.
As we know, we are heading towards digitalisation. There are many social media influencers who are playing a crucial role in marketing strategy. Income received by an influencer is calculated by deducting expenditure incurred on their business. Filming costs, such as cameras, microphones, and other equipment; subscription and software licencing fees; internet and communication costs; home office costs, such as rent and utilities; office supplies; business costs, such as travel or transportation costs; and others are examples of what can be written off as a social media influencer. To illustrate how Section 194 R will be applicable in such a situation, let’s consider Nandini is a social media influencer. She received an offer from a company for product promotion in another city. She charged her fee of Rs 88,000 and the travel expense incurred by her was Rs 25,000. Here, the company will reimburse her travel expenses. So, the travel expenditure incurred by the company is covered under the benefits and perquisites provided to Nandini. Hence, TDS is to be deducted under section 194R at the rate of 10%, i.e., Rs 2500 is deductible from the fees payable to Nandini.
There is no further requirement to check whether the amount is taxable in the hands of the recipient or under which section it is taxable. The Supreme Court took the same view in the case of PILCOM vs. CIT in reference to the deduction of tax under Section 194E. It was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that tax is to be deducted under section 194E at a specific rate indicated therein, and there is no need to see the taxability under DTAA or the rate of taxability in the hands of the non-resident.
In the matter of ACIT Vs Solvay Pharma India Ltd, the court held that free samples provided by the pharmaceutical company for promotion purposes would be taxable income. As such, free samples cannot be treated as a freebie. The complimentary sample of medication serves solely to demonstrate its effectiveness and to win the doctors’ confidence in the high quality of the pharmaceuticals. Again, this cannot be regarded as gifts given to doctors as they are intended to promote the company’s goods. The pharmaceutical corporation, which manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products, can only increase sales and brand recognition by hosting seminars and conferences and educating medical professionals about recent advances in therapeutics and other medical fields. Since there are daily advancements in the fields of medicine and therapy taking place throughout the globe, it is crucial for doctors to stay current in order to give accurate patient diagnosis and treatment.
GUJARAT HIGH COURT: WRIT PETITION FILED AGAINST PRIVATE UNIVERSITY NOT MAINTAINABLE, REMEDY FOR ALLEGED ARBITRARY TERMINATION LIES UNDER CIVIL LAW.
The Gujarat High Court in the case Shambhavi Kumari v/s Sabarmati University & 3 other(s) observed and has declined to intervene in a writ petition seeking reinstatement with full back wages and benefits filed by an Assistant Professor against a private university, Sabarmati University.
The bench comprising of Justice Bhargav Karia observed and has clarified that the dispute regarding termination was ‘in the realm of a private contract’ and therefore, held that if on the part of the respondent, there is an alleged arbitrary action, the same would give cause to the petitioner to initiate civil action before the Civil Court but in the facts of the present case, the writ petition would not be maintainable against the private educational institution governed by the Gujarat Private Universities Act, 2009.
In the present case, the petitioner was given a three months’ notice starting August 2013, allegedly without any reason. Consequently. Earlier, an application was filled by the petitioner before the Gujarat Affiliated Colleges Service Tribunal and thereafter, withdrew the application to file the writ before the High Court.
It was contested by the respondents that the petition was not maintainable on the ground that the University was a private University and did not fall within the term ‘State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the employment conditions of the Petitioner would not bring her services within the realm of ‘duty or public function.’
It was observed that the petitioner, per contra, insisted that the University was established under the Gujarat Private Universities Act, 2009. However, Universities were established to provide quality and industry relevant higher education and for related matters and hence, it could not be said that the Universities were not performing public duty. It was directed by the State Government and pervasive control over the functioning of it as was mentioned in Sec 31-35 of Chapter VI of the Act. Reliance was placed on Janet Jeyapaul vs. SRM University and ors. where the Top Court had held that the writ petition was maintainable against the deemed university and whose functions were governed by the UGC Act, 1956.
The bench of Justice Karia, while taking stock of the contentions referred to Mukesh Bhavarlal Bhandari and ors vs. Dr. Nagesh Bhandari and ors where the Coordinate Bench of the High Court in similar circumstances had reiterated that merely because the activity of the said research institute ensures to the benefit of the Indian public, it cannot be a guiding factor to determine the character of the Institute and bring the same within the sweep of ‘public duty or public function.
It was observed that the High Court also rejected the reference to Janet Jeyapaul since in the instant case and held that in the realm of a private contract, the Petitioner termination was to be decided.
Further, it was observed that it is not necessary to go into the merits of the case with regard to the issue of show-cause notice for providing an opportunity of hearing resulting into breach of principle of natural justice and weather the action of the respondent University is unfair or not because all such disputes essentially are in the realm of private contract.
Accordingly, the bench dismissed the petition.
Gujarat HC Quashes Reinstatement Order: Industrial Dispute Act| Person Working In The Capacity Of ‘Consultant’ Cannot Be Deemed ‘Workman’
The Gujarat High Court In the case Santram Spinners Limited v/s Babubhai Magandas Patel observed and has struck down the order of the Labour Court which had held that the Respondent-workman was entitled to reinstatement along with 20% back wages in the Petitioner-institute. Thus, the High Court, after perusing, Form No. 16A which pertains to Tax Deducted at Source, concluded that the Respondent was being paid consultant fees and not a salary and the same had been ignored by the Labour Court.
The bench comprising of Justice Sandeep Bhatt noted that the Respondent had raised an industrial dispute, inter alia, claiming that he was working in the company of the Petitioner as a Technical Maintenance In-Charge while the respondent earning a salary of INR 9,000 per month. Thereafter, it was alleged by him that he was terminated orally in 1997. Consequently, the Labour Court ruled in his favour and ordered reinstatement and back wages.
It was submitted by the petitioner that the Respondent did not fall within the definition of the term ‘workman’ in Sec 2(s) since he was employed as a Maintenance Consultant, receiving consultant fees and not a salary and the respondent had failed to produce any documentary evidence such as TDS statement, appointment letter, bills to bolster his contention.
Further, it was also averred by the petitioner that the relevant documentary evidence was absent. It was stated that Form 16A was produced to show that if the Respondent was a consultant, then there was no need to deduct TDS. It was observed that the Form No. 26K was disagreed by the Labour Court, which was produced by the Company to show that the tax was deducted from fees for technical or professional services.
The bench comprising of Justice Bhatt firstly observed that the Respondent had admitted that he had no evidence with him to prove that he was working as a ‘workman’ in the Company of the Petitioner that his salary was fixed at INR 9,000 per month. It was stated by the Manager of the Company that the Respondent was rendering services as a consultant raising his Vouchers/bills regularly and being paid through cheque. As per the Bench, there was ‘ample evidence’ to prove that that the Respondent was employed as a technical consultant.
Justice Bhatt stated that it is pertinent to note that the learned Labour Court has committed gross error in holding that those documents are complicated and thus, the learned Labour Court has also erred in giving findings that since TDS is deducted by the petitioner company and therefore, the respondent is workman, who is serving in the petitioner institute and in my opinion, this finding of the learned Labour Court is against the settled proposition of law and is highly erroneous.
Therefore, the High Court affirmed that there was no evidence that the Respondent had been working for more than 240 days during the year preceding termination.
Accordingly, the High Court struck down the award of the Labour Court.
GUJARAT HIGH COURT QUASHES REINSTATEMENT ORDER: PERSON WORKING IN SUPERVISORY CAPACITY CANNOT RISE “INDUSTRAIL DISPUTE”
The Gujarat High Court in the case Gujarat Insecticides Ltd. & 1 other(s) v/s Presiding Officer & 2 others observed and has reiterated that a person working in “supervisory” capacity cannot raise an industrial dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
The bench comprising of Justice AY Kogje observed and further made it clear that while deciding whether such person is a workman or not, the Labour Court ought to carefully consider the evidence placed on record and there is no exhaustive list of work to differentiate between the management employee and the Workman.
In the present case, the Petitioner Company averred that the Respondent was working in the non-workman category and engaged in the ‘supervisory category’ and was drawing salary of more than INR 1600. Therefore, the dispute was not an industrial dispute within Section 2(s) of the Act, 1947.
It was insisted by the Respondent that he had worked with the company as a Maintenance Engineer and the duties assigned to him were of the nature of a workman’s duties as per the ID Act. The respondent was wrongly terminated by way of termination and without any procedure established by law and as such, was entitled back wages.
It was observed that the high court took into consideration the Respondent’s appointment letter and witness depositions regarding the nature of work performed by him to conclude that the Respondent in Grade-9 was indeed discharging duty of Maintenance Engineer. It was also specified by the depositions that the hierarchical grading in the petitioner-company as per which, the employees above Grade-7 were of the Management Cadre.
The High Court observed that the Labour Court has completely disregarded this evidence, which according to this Court is most relevant for the purpose of deciding the status of workman and the Labour Court has proceeded that the petitioner-company ought to have produced evidence in the nature of whether the respondent-workman has sanctioned any leave, sanctioned any overtime or prepared any gate passes for employees to go home or has made any ordered or Appointment dismissal. Thus, when the Labour Court, instead of referring to this evidence already on record to establish the nature of work of the respondent and has decided to chase the evidence which is not on record and then on the basis that such evidence not being on record, it was concluded that in the definition of workman, the workman will be covered, this is where, in the opinion of the Court, perversity has crept in.
Accordingly, the bench quashed the impugned order. Therefore, seeing the passage of time, it was held by the High Court that the allowances paid u/s 17B of the Act should not be recovered by the Petitioner company.
COURT CALLS FOR SENSITIZATION OF POLICE: DELHI RIOTS SITE PLANS PREPARED CASUALLY, S.65B CERTIFICATE NOT FILLED FOR DIGITALLY SOURCED EVIDENCE
The Court while dealing with a case related to 2020 Delhi riots, a city Court has called for sensitisation of investigating officers (IOs) on making the photos obtained from digital sources as admissible in evidence by filing a certificate under section 65B of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
The bench comprising of Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala observed and thus ordered that whenever, photographs are filed from digital sources it is needless to say that a certificate under Section 65-B of I.E. Act, is must to make those photographs admissible for the purpose of evidence. However, all the IOs are required to be sensitized this respect as well and it is high time to control the casual and callous approach of any IO.
It was also observed that court expressed displeasure over “casually prepared site plans” by stating that preparation of the same were not even expected in cases triable by the Metropolitan Magistrates.
Adding to it, the Judge stated that unfortunately this kind of site plan has been filed in such a serious case involving session triable case. Moreover, from the documents filed on the record, the court find that certain photographs have been placed, but without any certificate under Section 65-B of Indian Evidence Act.
In the present case, the court was dealing with an FIR registered on the complaint of one Salim Khan wherein it was stated by him that his spare parts and barber shop shop was looted and was put on fire during riots.
It was admitted by one of the accused Dharmender that his involvement in the matter and he, with other co-accused was seen carrying the carton of Rooh Afzah from the warehouse of a complainant in another FIR.
The Court stated that a serious re-look over the quality of evidence/documents place on the record in the case, is required by senior officer with all serious attention.
Further, the court added that in this case the ld. DCP (North East) is requested to go through the records and to submit his report, if the prosecution is to be carried on, on the basis of other materials and same site plan as placed on the record.
As in future, the Special Public Prosecutor undertook to be much careful.
Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for further hearing on August 17.
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