The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre plans paperless stamps

New Delhi, Dec. 5: The government today unveiled plans to create a dematerialised (paperless) system for the issue of judicial stamp paper within six to eight weeks.

The move follows the Telgi scam in which stamp paper worth thousands of crores was faked.

Finance minister Jaswant Singh said the issue of stamp paper in demat form would work in much the same way as shares, but refused to spell out details.

The demat system in shares uses a depository that records transactions in shares as they are bought and sold without actually giving them out in physical (paper) form. Shareholders continue to retain the right to hold on to shares in physical form, but this practice has gone out of vogue almost completely.

To hold shares in paperless form, however, an investor has to open what is called a demat account in a bank that is linked to the central depository.

It isn’t known if the ministry is planning to replicate such a system. If it is, it could create more problems for the common man than it seeks to solve.

Ordinary people, who need to buy stamp paper to register property deeds, rent agreement and other everyday transactions, will find the process extremely cumbersome.

“It (the demat system) will be safe, secure and easy to transact,” Singh said.

The finance minister denied reports that his ministry had prior information of the stamp paper scam but had deliberately ignored it.

Last week, there was a report that Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna had written to Singh as early as July informing him about the possible involvement of government security press officials in the scam.

Besides buying printing machinery from the Nashik security press under the control of the finance ministry, Telgi is also believed to have bribed employees into selling him negatives and positives to produce fake stamp paper.

Singh said there had been some correspondence between the states and the Centre but did not reveal if there was an exchange with Krishna.

He said the issue had reached Parliament and whenever the debate took place the ministry would place the facts before the House. “Investigations are going on at several levels and in states. The finance ministry has already done many things,” Singh said.

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