The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance on 27thMay 2019, vide notification G.S.R. 379(E) notified the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions (Conditions of services of Members of Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2019. These rules were made in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 68 read with sub-section (2) of section 9, sub- section (1) of section 13 of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988.
Rule 3 provides for a Search-cum-Selection Committee for the post of the Member of the Adjudicating Authority which shall consist of
- Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue — as Chairperson;
- Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Law and Justice, Department of Legal Affairs — as Member;
- Chairperson, Central Board of Direct Taxes — as Member.
Appointment of a Member of the Adjudicating Authority
This Rule 3 also states that the Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall be appointed by the Central Government, on the recommendation of the Search–cum–Selection Committee in respect of the said members. The Search–cum–Selection Committee shall determine its procedure for making its recommendation. Also, no appointment of Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy or absence in the Search–cum–Selection Committee.
Rule 4 provides that Medical Fitness shall be a necessary requirement for appointment as a member. It states that a person shall be appointed as a member of the adjudicating authority only if he is declared medically fit by an authority specified by the Central Government.
Rule 5 provides that a Member of the Adjudicating Authority may, by writing under his hand addressed to the Central Government, resign his office at any time. However, he shall, unless permitted by the Central Government to relinquish his office from the date as specified in the resignation letter, continue to hold office until the expiry of three months from the date of receipt of such notice by the Central Government or until a person duly appointed as a successor enters upon his office or until the expiry of his term of office, whichever is the earliest.
Inquiry for Removal of a Member of the Adjudicating Authority
Rule 6 provides for the procedure to be adopted in case a written complaint is received by the Central Government, alleging any charge as referred to in clause (d) or clause (e) of the sub-section (1) of section 14 of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, in respect of a Member of the Adjudicating Authority, the Board shall make a preliminary scrutiny of such complaint. If on preliminary scrutiny, the Board is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for making an inquiry into the truth of any charges in respect of the Member of the Adjudicating Authority, it, with the approval of Central Government, shall make a reference to the Committee constituted in this behalf to conduct the inquiry. The Committee shall complete the inquiry within a period of twelve months from the date of receipt of the reference, as may be specified by the Central Government. However it is also provided that where it is not possible to complete the inquiry within the period specified by the Central Government, the Committee may record the reasons and seek extension of time from Central Government in writing, which may allow an additional time not exceeding the period of six months for completion of inquiry, at a time. Then, after the conclusion of the inquiry, the Committee shall submit its report to the Central Government stating therein its findings and the reasons thereof on each of the charges separately along with such observations as it may deem fit. Also, what is pertinent to mention here is that the Committee shall not be bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and shall regulate its own procedure, including the fixing of date, place and time of its inquiry.
Salary and Allowances, Pension, Gratuity and Provident Fund
As per Rule 7,
The Chairperson of the Adjudicating Authority shall be paid a salary of Rs. 1,82,200- 2,24,100 and shall be entitled to draw allowances as are admissible to a Central Government Officer holding post carrying the same pay.
The Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall be paid a salary of Rs. 1,44,200- 2,18,200 and shall be entitled to draw allowances as are admissible to a Central Government Officer holding post carrying the same pay.
However, in case a person, appointed as the Chairperson or a Member of the Adjudicating Authority, is in receipt of any pension, the pay of such person shall be reduced by the gross amount of pension drawn by him.
As per Rule 8, In case of a member of the Indian Legal Service or a member of the Indian Revenue Service appointed to the post of the Chairperson or Member of the Adjudicating Authority, the service so rendered in the Adjudicating Authority shall count for pension to be drawn in accordance with the rules of the service to which he belongs and he shall be continued to be governed by the provisions of the General Provident Fund (Central Services) Rules, 1960, the Contributory Provident Fund (India) Rules, 1962 and the Contribution Pension System, if he was governed by such provisions before his appointment as the Chairperson or the Member. But, additional pension and gratuity shall not be admissible for service rendered in the Adjudicating Authority.
Rule 9 entitles the Member of the Adjudicating Authority to thirty days of earned Leave for every year of service. Wherein The Casual Leave not exceeding eight days in a calendar year shall be granted to the Member of the Adjudicating Authority. Rule 10 describes the Central Government as the leave sanctioning authority for the Chairperson, the Chairperson as the leave sanctioning authority for the member. However, for sanctioning foreign travel to both Member and Chairperson of the Adjudicating Authority, the sanctioning authority shall the Central Government.
As per Rule 11, the Members shall not be eligible for allotment of general pool residential accommodation but they shall be entitled to draw house rent allowance at the rates as are admissible to other Central Government officers of equivalent pay. However, if the person appointed as Member is already in occupation of Government accommodation for which Central Government officers of equivalent pay are eligible, he shall be allowed to retain such accommodation from the date of his joining the Adjudicating Authority.
Declaration of Financial and other Interests
Rule 12 makes it mandatory for a member of the Adjudicating Authority to declare his assets, his liabilities and financial and other interests, before entering upon his office.
Other conditions of service
Rule 13 provides that other conditions of service of the Member of the Adjudicating Authority with respect to which no express provision has been made in these rules, shall be such as are admissible to a Central Government Officer of a corresponding status. The Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall not practice before the Adjudicating Authority after retirement from the service of the Adjudicating Authority.The Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall not undertake any arbitration work while functioning in these capacities in the Adjudicating Authority.The Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall not, for a period of two years from the date on which they cease to hold office, accept any employment in, or connected with the management or administration of, any person who has been a party to a proceeding before the Adjudicating Authority. However, it is also provided that nothing contained in this rule shall apply to any employment under the Central Government or a State Government or a local authority or in any statutory authority or any corporation established by or under any Central, State or Provincial Act or a Government company as defined in clause (45) of section 2 of the Companies Act, 2013.
Oaths of Office and Secrecy
As per Rule 14, Every person appointed to be the Member of the Adjudicating Authority shall, before entering upon his office, make and subscribe an oath of office and secrecy in Form-I and Form-II.
FORM-I: Form of Oath of Office for the Chairperson/Member of the Adjudicating Authority
I, A. B., having been appointed as Chairperson/Member of Adjudicating Authority do solemnly affirm/do swear in the name of God that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties as the Chairperson/Member of Adjudicating Authority to the best of my ability, knowledge and judgment, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws of land.
FORM-II: Form of Oath of Secrecy for the Chairperson/Member of the Adjudicating Authority
I, A. B., having been appointed as the as Chairperson/Member of Adjudicating Authority do solemnly affirm/do swear in the name of God that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as Chairperson/Member of Adjudicating Authority except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as the Chairperson/Member of Adjudicating Authority.
Relaxation of rules
Rule 15 gives the Central Government, the power to relax any of the provisions of these rules with respect to any class or category of persons if it is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient so to do. However, reasons for such order are to be recorded in writing.
As per Rule 16, If any question arises relating to the interpretation of these rules, the decision of the Central Government thereon shall be final.
Rule 17 provides that nothing in these rules shall affect reservation, relaxation of age-limit and other concessions required to be provided for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, Ex-servicemen and other special categories of persons in accordance with the orders issued by the Central Government from time to time in this regard.
Copy of Notification: G.S.R. 379(E)