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FPJ Legal: Plea filed in Bombay HC asking Maha govt to re-start e-Stamp facility amid acute shortage of stamped paper

In 2011, the government had introduced the e-Stamp facility but withdrew it within a few months.

Urvi Mahajani | Updated on: Saturday, January 15, 2022, 10:49 PM IST

Photo: Representative Image
Photo: Representative Image
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The repercussions of the Telgi fake stamp scam that rocked Maharashtra in the early 2000s can still be felt with the city facing an acute shortage of stamped papers due to the discontinuation of various licensed vendors at the time.

A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Bombay High Court highlighting the difficulties faced by the common man due to the “intentional” shortage in a stamped paper in the city and sought that the government re-start the e-Stamp facility immediately.

Mumbai, which has nearly 18-19 per cent of the state’s population and is the financial capital of the country, has merely 12 private stamped paper vendors of the total 3,556 vendors in the state.

The plea filed by advocate Swapnil Kadam states that the stamp paper vends granted to Advocate’s Associations were abruptly closed down in December 2020 in utter defiance to the order of the HC.

The government-run ex-officio vends were closed down in the backdrop of the Telgi fake stamp paper scam and as a result, the number of vending licenses was reduced to 12 from its original strength of 250 in 2000, states the plea.

Due to the ongoing pandemic situation, the citizens have to stand in long queues for buying a Rs 100 stamped paper and risk their lives. The shortage is resulting in black marketing of stamped papers, the plea stated.

On March 26, 2004, the Maharashtra government took a policy decision to issue stamp vending licenses only to banks, post offices and similar institutions controlled either by the government or the Reserve Bank of India. This further added to the shortage of stamped paper.

In 2011, the government had introduced the e-Stamp facility but withdrew it within a few months.

“The above policy and closure of the ex-officio vends resulted in a huge shortage of stamped papers and court fee label,” reads the plea.

Indian advocates Multi-State Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society Limited and all Advocate Welfare Organisation had filed a petition in the HC seeking a license for stamped paper and court fee vending. It had even challenged the government policy of 2004.

The plea further alleges that the members of the R7 have been influencing the functioning of the office of the General Stamp Office and not allowing the sale of stamped papers through other possible means.

Lucrative business with a higher commission which is 3 per cent of the stamped paper value amount, has been retained with these private vendors.

“An independent enquiry is required to be conducted to assess the losses caused to the government exchequer for the deliberate mismanagement and closure of government-run stamped paper vends,” seeks the plea.

Besides, under the present mechanism, the vendors are given the stamped papers at discounted rates and there is no system of deducting TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) or TCS (Tax Collection at Source). There is no system to check whether the vendors are disclosing their true income.

“The income authorities remain clueless about the real income and depend upon the disclosure of the private stamped vendor,” reads the plea.

The plea prays that the government start the e-stamp facility in the state like it is available in 15 states and 6 Union Territories.

Alternatively, it has sought that the government provide an adequate number of stamp vending licenses in the city “considering population, litigation and access to justice” in respect of Mumbai.

During the hearing on January 14, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik noted that the “issue of dearth of stamp vendors” is prima facie “serious and requires to be examined”. The HC has asked the state government to file its reply in two weeks. The petitioner has been asked to file a rejoinder (additional affidavit) within one week thereafter.

Place – number of vendors

Mumbai and suburbs – 16

Pune city – 139

Pune rural – 167

Sangli – 214

Kolhapur – 309

Nagpur – 295

Nashik – 266

Dhule – 236

Thane – 111

Palghar – 36

(As per RTI reply from the General Stamp Office dated July 2, 2021, only 13 vendors in Mumbai have a valid license)

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Published on: Sunday, January 16, 2022, 06:15 AM IST