Shri Digvijaya Singh
All India Congress Committee
4, Akbar Road, New Delhi.
Subject : Legal Notice for defamation
I write on behalf of and under instructions of my client, Shri Shanti Bhushan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India. You gave an interview to Shri Karan Thapar on his show “Devil’s Advocate” telecast on CNN-IBN on 16th, 17th and 18th of April, 2011. In this Show you cast an aspersion on the integrity of my client and also suggested that my client had under-valued the property which he had purchased in Allahabad and also not paid adequate stamp duty on it.
You also said that this raised serious question marks about his not being a suitable person to be on the committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill to fight corruption.
The relevant extract from the Show ‘Devil’s Advocate’ including both Mr. Karan Thapar’s question and your answers are set out hereinbelow for convenience :
“Karan Thapar : What do you think of the people that he has actually appointed ? The Bhushans, Arvind Kejriwal, Justice Hegde, what do you think of the quality and caliber of the people that he has appointed?
Digvijay Singh : Well, Arvind Kejriwal is the Chela of Aruna Roy. So if Aruna Roy had been taken, it would have been much better. As far as Justice Hegde is concerned, I am really not aware of his worth. Obviously he must be a good Judge. But at the same time keeping Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan both there, and I was really surprised, yesterday only they have been noticed for undervaluing their property, and also avoiding paying the right amount of stamp duty. I think they should be careful in chosing their friends.
Karan Thapar: Just to understand you properly, you are saying notices just yesterday were given to the two Bhushans, I presume you are saying court notices for undervaluing their property and not paying the proper amount to stamp duty ?
Digvijay Singh : Yes
Karan Thapar : Are you saying that this of course suggests that they are not suitable to be on a body that determines a Lokpal to fight corruption ?
Digvijay Singh : Well, I’m not saying that. But it raise question marks.
Karan Thapar : Serious question marks ?
Digvijay Singh : Yes.”
Further in an interview with NDTV on 15.4.2011 you stated that my client pressurized the owner to sell the property to him on a highly under-valued price and also did not pay adequate stamp duty on it and also cheated the revenue by not paying the correct stamp duty.
You have further said that the Government has sent a Notice to my client demanding stamp duty of more than one crore. All your above statements are false and highly damaging to my client’s reputation.
I am instructed to inform you that the Allahabad house purchased by my client is a house in which my client and his family had been tenants for the last about 70 years.
My client had an Agreement in 1966 to Purchase the saidh ouse for a total sum of Rs. 1 lakh which was the market value at that point of time. However, on account of the fact that the 99 years lease granted by the Government in favour of the owner had expired and was pending renewal, the sale deed could not be executed. Finally when the lease deed was renewed and the property was converted into free-hold my client demanded execution of the sale deed which was refused by the owner. My client instituted a suit for specific performance in the year 2000 in Civil Court at Allahabad which was pending. Thereafter a compromise was arrived at between my client and the owner under which the owner agreed to sell a major portion of the property to my client for the consideration agreed to in the agreement to sell provided that the remaining portion of 4317.78 sq. yards be released from the agreement and be left with the owner to sell independently to other persons. The pending suit was decreed in terms of the agreement and it is in this background that the property was purchased for Rs. 1 lakh.
Further prior to the execution of the sale deed the question arose as to what would be the proper stamp duty on the proposed sale deed. Under the Indian Stamp Act the stamp duty would be on the value of the transaction which would be Rs. 1 lakh. However, there is a U.P.amendment in the Stamp Act which provides that stamp duty payable is on the market value of the property.
Market value is calculated under Rule 341 of the U.P. Stamp Rules by multiplying the actual annual rental value or the assessed annual rental value by 20 times whichever is higher. The assessed annual rental value for this property was Rs. 33,360 per year. Therefore the market value of the house for the purpose of the stamp duty was Rs. 6,67,200/-.
There is a provision in the Stamp Act namely Section 31 which provides that when any instrument whether executed or not and whether previously stamped or not is brought to the Collector and the person bringing it applies to have the opinion of that officer as to the stamp duty with which it is chargeable, the Collector shall determine the duty with which in his judgment the instrument is chargeable.
Accordingly, my client applied to the Collector under Section 31 for his opinion as to how much stamp duty should be paid on the proposed sale deed and pointed out the relevant provisions which according to him were applicable and the stamp duty which according to him was payable. My client also enclosed the copy of the proposed sale deed which had not yet been executed. This application was received in the office of the Collector on 29 th September, 2010. A copy of this application enclosed.
Since the Collector did not proceed to determine the stamp duty payable, and the execution of the sale deed could not be withheld indefinitely, the sale deed was executed on 29 th November 2010 by the owner and the vendees and was duly registered by the Office of the Sub Registrar on 29.11.2010 by paying the stamp duty which according to my client under the Rules was payable and which had been mentioned by him in the Section 31 application to the Collector. Thereafter a Notice dated 5.2.2011 was received by my client which mentioned that the sale deed had been executed and that the question relating to the proper stamp duty payable was pending before the authority. The Office of the Assistant Commissioner of Stamps Allahabad fixed a date of 22.4.2011 on which date the case for determining the stamp duty was fixed. A copy of the Notice is also enclosed.
You will notice that it has not been stated in the Notice either that the property was under-valued or that adequate stamp duty had not been paid. Further it had not been suggested as to what the correct stamp duty payable was.
Thus your statements that
a) my client under valued the property
b) my client had not paid the correct stamp duty on it and
c) that my client had been noticed by the U.P. Government for payment of stamp duty of more than 1 crore of rupees are all incorrect and false.
My client’s conduct in the case of purchase of the house has been exemplary and strictly in accordance with law.
All aspersions cast by you on my client’s conduct which have been aired in public on national TV channels including the suggestion that there are serious questions about my client’s suitability to be on a body that drafts Lokpal Bill to fight corruption are false and seriously damaging to my client’s reputation. Your aforesaid statements amount to defamation both civil and criminal under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code punishable under Section 500 of the Code with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years.
You are therefore called upon to immediately publicly apologize for the incorrect allegations made by you against my client failing which we will be constrained to take proceedings against you both civil and criminal in appropriate courts of law at your risk and cost.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi,
All India Congress Committee,
24, Akbar Road, New Delhi.