Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is jantri valid without changes in Stamp Duty Act? Gujarat High Court

The Gujarat high court has admitted a petition questioning the validity of 'jantri rate' also termed as Annual Statement of Rate as fixed by the state government and questioned whether it can be accepted without amending existing piece of legislation.

The petition was filed by Shihor Bar Association through advocate B M Mangukiya contending that the state government's gesture of fixing market value of any property undermines the power of adjudicatory authority appointed under the Gujarat Stamp Duty Act, 1958.

With admission of the plea, the court has also asked the revenue authority to explain within a month certain aspects and place before the court the methodology of assessing the market value for preparing jantri rates.

The HC has asked the government under which provisions of law, jantri rate "could befoisted upon the adjudicatory authority so as to be the sole guiding instructions, leaving no room for discretion to appreciate the evidence adduced, which may indicate contrary to the rates prescribed in Annual Statement of Rates".

The HC has also asked, "Under what circumstances and under what authority of law, market value could be determined by the state government itself in respect of property situated in entire state. Whether it could be said to be a scientific method of fixing rates so as to nullify the discretion of the authority to determine market rate?"

The court prima facie considered the argument put forth by advocate Mangukiya that any document that is provided to the authority to adjudge the value of property becomes unnecessary in light of fixed jantri rates. But this snatches discretionary powers of stamp authority to evaluate the property.

Justice S R Brahmbhatt, who is hearing this case, has also observed that if jantri rates are to be accepted as market rate or to be accepted as a guideline for the authority, the authority's discretion stands restricted. But if restriction on discretion is to be put, it has to be complete restriction. With such observation, the judge further noted that the stamp duty officials draw powers from the legislation. And no restriction on their discretion can be permitted without any legislative amendment to the existing Stamp Duty Act.

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