Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan played the role of an Ahmedabad-based underworld don who takes pride in flouting the liquor prohibition law in Gujarat in the Hindi movie Raees released last year. The movie was produced by his wife Gauri Khan and production house Red Chillies Entertainment Limited. It appears that Shahrukh Khan has taken his screen avatar a tad seriously. In real life too, a case of Benami Transaction has come to light in which the actor is accused of flouting the law, in which he was helped by his relatives.
Shahrukh Khan is accused of violating the law by building a luxury farmhouse on land meant for agricultural purposes at Alibag near Mumbai. The Income Tax Department has attached the farmhouse belonging to the actor who holds the property in his purported capacity as a “beneficial owner”, while the “benamidar” is the person is a person or a fictitious person in whose name the benami property is transferred or held. The sprawling farmhouse spread over an area of 19,960 square metres is the subject matter of the benami transaction by Shahrukh Khan that is under the scanner of the I-T Department.
The Modi Government in its relentless efforts to curb the parking of black money and ensuring a clampdown on benami properties had amended the Benami Property Transactions Act in 2016 and it had come into effect just a week before the Prime Minister had announced the decision of demonetization. According to the law, which came into effect on 1st November, 2016 if a person is found guilty of offence of benami transaction by the competent court, he could be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of one year and a maximum term of 7 years or he shall be liable to fine which may extend to 25% of the fair market value of the property. The circle rate of Shahrukh Khan’s property is approximately 15 crore rupees while the market value is estimated to be around 70 to 80 crores.
In the present case, Shahrukh Khan gave an unsecured loan of Rs 8.5 crores to a company called Déjà vu Farms ostensibly managed by the relatives of the actor. As per available details, Shahrukh Khan’s father-in-law Ramesh Chibber, Mother-in-law Savita Chibber and sister-in-law Namita Chibber are the Directors of the company. Déjà vu Farms used the loan to purchase the agricultural property at Raigad and build a lavish farmhouse in violation of the law. However, in a blatant disregard of the rules and norms, a swimming pool and a private helipad have also been built on the property. The construction of swimming pool was also in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules. It was after Raigad District Collector Vijay Suryavanshi sought legal opinion to take further action against 87 farmhouses along the seafront at Thal village in Alibag for violation of CRZ rules that the issue came to the notice of the I-T Department. Out of these 87 farmhouses, one farmhouse is the benami property belonging to actor Shahrukh Khan.
Déjà vu Farms was incorporated in 2004 by Srinivas Parthasarathy and Somaekhar Sundaresan who transferred the shares in the name of Shahrukh Khan and Gauri Khan and on the same day they were replaced by three new directors – Ramesh Chibber, Savita Chibber (parents of Shahrukh Khan’s wife Gauri) and Moreshwar Rajaram Ajgaonkar.
In order to circumvent the issue of the land being meant for agricultural purposes, Ajgaonkar declared himself an agriculturist and was also shown as the owner of the property. The then Additional Collector of Raigad district allowed the purchase of land on the condition that it would be used for farming within a time period of 3 years from the date of its purchase. On 1st October, 2011, Namita Chibber, Shahrukh Khan’s sister-in-law, was appointed a Director in the Company in place of Moreshwar Ajgaonkar.
According to the investigation report of the Income Tax Department, the company Déjà vu Farms had not shown or disclosed any income from farming and that the only source of income of the farm was the loan advanced by Shahrukh Khan to his company which was, for all practical purposes, owned by the actor himself. It is shocking that rich and powerful actors such as Shahrukh Khan who are looked upon as role models by many people in the country are found indulging in malpractices to evade the taxes due from them. While the common people do not expect any intellectual radiance from most of the celebrities or saintly conduct in the personal lives by these celebrities (especially those working in Bollywood), they do have a right to expect exemplary conduct when it comes to compliance with the rules, regulations and laws, which are meant to be equal for all.
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