In the recent past, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has revised the maximum amount that can be sent abroad without special permissions. However, these properties should not be agricultural land, a farm house or a plantation. An NRI/PIO is allowed to send abroad up to $1 million from the sale of property in any one financial year. This amount should be the sale proceeds of property inherited by him out of rupee funds. This transfer is subject to production of documentary evidence in support of acquisition, inheritance or legacy of assets by the NRI, and a tax clearance or a no objection certificate from the Income Tax Authority. The $1 million remittance can also be made from the balances held in Non Resident Ordinary Rupee (NRO) Accounts.

After taking a dip following the financial crisis of 2008, property prices have bounced back and how. Despite the high price rise, more and more NRIs are keen to buy properties in India. Who can buy property in India? An NRI who is a citizen of India but residing outside, or a Person of Indian Origin (PIO). A PIO is defined as an individual (not a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nepal or Bhutan) who has held an Indian passport at any time or whose father or mother or grandfather or grandmother was a citizen of India.

The laws related to immovable property in India are complex and are not uniform from one state to another, said Rajan D. Gupta, a senior lawyer and a qualified accountant with SRGR Law Offices.

A major concern is to determine the clear and marketable title of the land under question and to ensure that the land under question is free from any encumbrances such as litigation, prior mortgages, any third party interest or rights and any governmental actions such as compulsory acquisition proceedings.

In case of properties, especially agricultural properties, which are owned by farming families, there are a number of family law issues which again are myriad as there are a number of religions in India and most of them have their own characteristic legal frameworks.To ward off such issues and be almost certain about the legal status of the property to be acquired, it is advisable that a competent legal professional must be engaged to conduct a title check and due diligence of the property to be acquired. It is also important to engage such a professional who practises within the jurisdiction where the property is situated so that he/she is aware of the local legal compliances and issues.

NRIs face many legal tangles about their properties in India. These relate to the purchase, transfer and ownership of property, power of attorney, management and eviction of tenants, remittance of the sale proceeds, illegal grabbing of their properties and other related issues.

Their legal cases have been pending in the courts for years, indeed decades. If an NRI is fighting a case with a resident Indian, he is at a disadvantage because the Indian is in no hurry while the NRI has limited time to attend to his case during his visit to India or make special trips for court appearances.

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September 2021