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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Offices flouting stamp duty norms: RTI activist

TIMES NEWS NETWORK, Pune: Are government and semi-government offices causing a drain on the exchequer by flouting the stamp duty rules?
If answers provided to right-to-information (RTI) activist Vivek Velankar by three key organisations is anything to go by, the situation calls for immediate remedial action.
Velankar had moved a plea under the RTI Act, 2005, seeking in-formation from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Pune district collector’s office and the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (Mahadiscom) on the amount being charged by them
for execution of indemnity bonds and affidavits by citizens for various purposes.
The written replies he got from various units of the three organisations revealed that the amount charged did not conform to norms under the Stamp Duty Act that was amended on May 1, 2001. As per the Act, an affidavit is required to be executed on a Rs 100 stamp paper, and an indemnity bond on a Rs 200 stamp paper.
“However, in some cases, affidavits and indemnities have been executed on stamp papers valued much lower than the prescribed duty, causing loss of revenue to the state,” Velankar said.
Similarly, in some cases, affidavits and indemnities were being executed on stamp papers of higher value than the prescribed charge, which is a loss of revenue to the individual, he added.
“Officials are using their discretion instead of stamp duty rules while seeking stamp papers from citizens,” he added.
For instance, Mahadiscom’s Ganeshkhind circle office replied that it was seeking stamp papers as prescribed by the Act, but the Rasta Peth circle office stated it was seeking Rs 100 stamp paper for execution of both affidavits and indemnities.
While the PMC’s legal department replied it was adhering to stamp duty provisions, other civic departments — like those of building permission and control, water, skysign and licence, public relations and development planning — gave replies that showed arbitrary charging of stamp duty.
The collector’s office too claimed adherence to the duty provisions, but the preprinted affidavit and indemnity forms attached with the reply carried a printed prescribed charge of Rs 20 for affidavit and Rs 100 for indemnities.
In a letter to inspector-general of registrations (IGR) O.P. Gupta, Velankar has demanded a thorough audit to find out the extent of the revenue loss the three organisations may have caused to the exchequer since May 2001.
Also, he has demanded disciplinary action against officers responsible for enforcing the use of undervalued stamp papers.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 15; Section:Times City; Page Number 3

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