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December 2020

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Many of us have faced bullying in some form or the other, at some point in our lives. It can happen randomly or regularly to anyone. Bullying – a menace that’s everywhere. It can occur anywhere, even in the best of schools, and leaves a scar on almost everyone involved, from the targets to witnesses—and sometimes even on the bullies themselves. It does not matter if you are a student, a teacher, a parent, or a professional, victims face different intensities of bullying depending on the age and form of the incident. Maximum cases, though, are reported among school students.

Various studies and reports from around the world term it as a staggering statistic; considering how bullying can affect a person’s overall wellbeing in the days and years that follow the episode. The most alarming side of this unhealthy practice is the inflated self-view of students carrying out bullying (termed as bullies) and the effects of this behaviour on people who are the targets (termed as victims). Victims often suffer from sleep issues, loss of self-esteem, anxiety, and depression; elevated emotional distress that can sometimes lead to severe health problems later. Bullies, in many cases, are prone to become antisocial or have adulthood troubles, with violent behaviour patterns and abuse becoming a significant part of their habits. Some of them may take to substance abuse as well. The increased dependence on gadgets and media has increased cyberbullying and cyber-attacks that have become a pervasive problem affecting students across the world and can slowly become a dangerous pandemic.

Schools often struggle to take a stand against bullying. Media coverage, the role of parents, internal politics, and the resolve of the management, all play a part in this dilemma.

It is time we found ways to redefine schools, work spaces, and homes to reduce this unhealthy practice. Unfortunately, teachers, many times fail to catch the first signs of bullying or to address it in time. The usual practice of letting go of a bullying attempt with dialogues such as kids will be kids, boys will be boys and such need to be shunned completely. The biggest message we must pass on to children is that no one can get away after a bullying incident, irrespective of the grade or intensity. Bullying can be of various types– mental, physical, emotional, psychological, cyber, verbal, and more. The most common one we see these days is children mocking people with disabilities or of a chosen gender. As much as we are becoming more inclusive in various spaces, children must first be taught the lesson of acceptance, to embrace and include people of different skin, ability, or gender into one fold, and to consider everyone as equal.

Teaching empathy, kindness and compassion are vital social skill sets. Social-emotional learning should be mandated in every classroom from primary grades to help develop these skill sets. Parallelly, schools should teach about personal boundaries and how to guard and respect them. Introducing children to diversities, conflicting ideas, and diverse cultures early on, help them understand the plethora of emotions. Knowing how to defend themselves without getting offended and without offending others leads to the growth of healthy relationships.

Creating better homes, schools, and work spaces that encourage building connections beyond color, caste, and personal belief systems are encouraged to nip bullying at a very young age. Students and teachers, parents and wards should foster a sense of community in their respective ecosystems. The sense of belonging and mutual respect reduces the urge to bully or see the other person as lesser or different.

Identifying gateway-behaviours is essential for every parent and teacher. Repeated behaviour patterns can signal the beginning of bullying nature in a child. Some of the key behaviour signs one should look out for are eye-rolling, prolonged staring, name-calling, ignoring or excluding intentionally, laughing at cruelly, spying, stalking, causing physical harm, pushing a person to cry to find sadistic pleasure, and such. Some of these may not be direct bullying behaviour, but if we can stop kids and make them understand the consequences at the first instance, we could mitigate the chances of it growing into problematic issues later.

Framing, forming, and implementing anti-bullying laws and practices in schools and strictly adhere to them backed by an anti-bullying legal framework helps immensely. It is vital to emphasize to stop bullying to protect students and teachers alike, as sometimes teachers also become targets of bullying attempts by children. Frequent awareness programs should be run among educators and children at periodic and regular intervals so that children are reminded of the repercussions if they commit one.

Schools must find ways to reduce this problem. This includes educating all teachers, staff, and administrators and making them aware of the different forms of abuse and bullying. The approach and strategy of the school should be such that teachers, staff, and students alike are taught ways to prevent bullying, about the consequences of bullying, and the legal ways to handle bullying. Unless we redesign and recreate spaces for expressions and talents without fear, we seldom will see healthy and competitive ecosystems around us. Nurture your child to hold and hug one another looking beyond differences and diversity.

Under Indian Income Tax Law, income from house property is one of the categories where even notional incomes are determined and liable to tax.  Every individual who owns more than two self-occupied properties has to treat the remaining as deemed let out and offer notional rental income.  A property is treated as self-occupied property if the same is used by an individual for his residential usage.  Also, no other benefit should be derived from such property.  Till FY 2018-19, only one house could be treated as self-occupied, and from FY 2019-20, two properties are allowed.  However, it is important to note that the total housing loan interest allowed as a deduction from both the properties together is capped at INR 2 Lakhs. 

The Income Tax provisions treat a property as ‘self‑occupied’ if it satisfies any one of the following conditions:

  1. The owner of the property is using it for his residential usage; or
  2. The property is vacant due to an individual’s employment, business, or profession in another place, where he has to reside in a property not belonging to him.

Let us understand the law with few illustrations. 

Arun, an individual living in Bangalore owns 2 houses and both are utilized for his own usage.  Arun uses Bangalore house for his self-occupation and the other one is situated in his native place outside Bangalore used by Arun himself during his visits to native place.  As per law, Arun can treat both as self occupied properties as both are used for self usage.

Varun, an individual living in Bangalore, owns 2 houses one in Bangalore used for his family and another one in his native place kept vacant.  Varun would need to treat the house situated in a native place as ‘deemed let-out’ property and offer notional rental income.  The house situated in native is not self-occupied, hence the condition (1) mentioned above is not satisfied. The house situated in native, not satisfying condition (2) as Varun stays in his own house in Bangalore.

It is important to note that condition (2) has two parts.  One part states that the house should be vacant due to an individual’s employment or business in another place and hence this property is vacant.  The second part states that the property being used in place of employment or business should not be an individual’s own property.  In Varun’s case, the native property though vacant due to employment in Bangalore, the second part, i.e. individual’s stay in place of employment should be at a property not owned by him is not satisfied. Hence, the native place property though vacant and even if not intended for let-out, still needs to be treated as deemed let-out property offering notional rental income.

From the above illustrations, it is clear that if a property needs to be treated as self-occupied for income tax purposes, then it should satisfy one of the conditions mentioned above.  Also, the income tax provisions have not defined what instances would be treated as own usage.  

Generally, the individual’s personal occupation alone is treated as self-occupied.  The property occupied by parents or any other family members and which is not used by an individual for his personal stay is not treated as self-occupied.  This principle has been upheld in a few Income Tax rulings also.

In case of individuals who qualify as ‘resident & ordinarily resident’ in India are liable to offer global income to tax in India.  They need to apply the above-said principles/ conditions even to the properties they own abroad in addition to properties owned within India.  Suppose an individual who has come to India on employment, owns one house in India (used for self‑occupation) & another one abroad in USA (kept vacant & not used for letting out or self-usage), then he has to offer the house in USA under ‘deemed let-out’ basis as he does not satisfy either of the conditions discussed above.  Similar issue arises even for non-residents who stay in own house abroad and have vacant house within India which is neither used for the self purpose or letting out purpose.

Based on the above points, each individual needs to analyze his case though he may own only two properties, whether both can be claimed as self-occupied for income tax purposes.

Also, read Taxation of Income from House Property – First guide to basics

The above information of Income from house Property is for general understanding and awareness purposes only.  It is highly suggested that the readers discuss their facts specifically with their respective tax consultants to determine the appropriate compliances applicable for their specific case.