Govt proposes APC on GST, break likely in Spl Session
Dated 15th June, 2017
While majority of Opposition ruled State Assemblies have passed Goods and Services Tax (GST), the implementation of the `One Nation, One Tax’ regime in Jammu and Kashmir, ruled by the BJP in alliance with the PDP, could be delayed by few days with Government deciding to constitute an All Party Committee (APC) to examine the legislation before its approval by the Legislature.
With Constitutional bar on deferring Special Legislature Session called by the Government from June 17-20 for debate and approval of the GST unless the Governor withdraws summons on the advice of Cabinet, the Government proposed to convene the session as schedule but then opt for break of few days to gain time for the All Party Committee to give its suggestions, official sources told the Excelsior.
The ‘One Nation, One Tax’ regime, which has been approved by majority of the States including those ruled by Congress and other Opposition parties and was prevalent in 168 countries, has surprisingly been mired in controversy in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is the major partner in the Government and its Ministers haven’t been asserting to ensure that the new tax regime is passed immediately. The Centre proposed to roll out the GST on July 1, exactly after a fortnight from now.
Sources said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has briefed some of the BJP Cabinet Ministers that she proposed to set up an All Party Committee headed by former Finance Minister and PDP MP from Baramulla, Muzaffar Hussain Baig comprising one member from each recognized political party to evolve consensus on the GST before taking it to the Legislature for approval.
The BJP has accepted the proposal provided that the Committee submit its report in few days and then the GST is approved by the Legislature well in time to ensure roll out of new tax regime on July 1,” sources said, adding that the issue could also figure in tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting called by the Chief Minister at 3 pm as the BJP Ministers were under intense pressure to ensure roll out of the GST well in time.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri, who attended the All Party Meeting (APM) convened by Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta this morning in Srinagar, told the Excelsior that the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of the Assembly will meet at 10 am on June 17 and take a call on whether to have break of few days in the session to facilitate All Party Committee to submit its findings. However, Veeri said, there will be Assembly session on June 17 as summoned by the Governor followed by Obituary reference but next business will be decided by the BAC.
Veeri said the Government could come out with composition of All Party Committee soon to evolve consensus on the GST.
Pointing out that ruling PDP was worried by the opposition to GST from several quarters in the Kashmir valley including main Opposition party, the National Conference, Chamber and Trade bodies, sources said the PDP didn’t want to give any chance to some parties and organizations to exploit surcharged atmosphere in the Valley.
At the same time, the Government sources clarified that there was absolutely no other option before the Government to switch over to GST as there were prospectus of entire trade coming to a halt on July 1 when the GST will be rolled out in the country. “How can the State function with one tax regime in one State and another tax structure in the entire country”? they asked but said the Government wants to take all stakeholders on board before implementation of the GST.
Noting that Food Security Act was implemented in the State by the Cabinet without approval of the Legislature, sources said 49 Constitutional amendments of the Centre have been adopted by Jammu and Kashmir so far without any problem but some sections were determined to create trouble by politicizing the issue of GST. The Government has already clarified that the State would lose Rs 5000 crores a year by not implementing the GST.
Meanwhile, the Opposition, National Conference took the Government to task at the APM called by Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta, for lacking clarity on the GST.
Former Minister and NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said the Government itself didn’t know what it would do in the Assembly on June 17. “When you are not aware of whether to debate GST or defer the session, why you have called us here. You want to leave everything on the Business Advisory Committee. This is not the Parliamentary procedure,” Sagar said while taking the Government Ministers to task.
Sources said even the Speaker was critical of the Government attitude as there was no business submitted by the Government so far for the Assembly session on June 17 except the Obituary reference.
Deputy Chief Minister and veteran BJP leader Dr Nirmal Singh didn’t turn up at the meeting despite being called by the Speaker, leaving Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri and Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan to face the Opposition parties.
Apart from Sagar, Mian Altaf (NC), Aijaz Ahmad Khan and Viqar Rasool (Congress), Rajesh Gupta (BJP), Hakim Yasin (PDF) and some other members attended the meeting called by the Speaker.
The Speaker later described GST as a very good legislation and called for its early implementation by the State Government to facilitate roll out of new tax regime in Jammu and Kashmir along with the entire country on July 1.
Kavinder Gupta told the Excelsior that the Assembly session will take off as scheduled on June 17. However, the business would be decided by the Business Advisory Committee.
“If there is no business and the Government wants to defer passage of the GST for few days,” the session can have break and convened again,” he said, adding all this would depend on the Government.