GST bill taken up in RS: Most parties, except AIADMK, support

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Main opposition Congress and most other parties, except AIADMK, on Wednesday, expressed support, with certain conditions, to the introduction of GST in the country as the Rajya Sabha took up the much-delayed bill to amend the Constitution for allowing the measure.

Moving the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014 amid thumping of desks by the entire House, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it was one of the most significant tax reforms in India in recent history that has been brought after a “broad consensus” with various political parties.

The bill was supported by Congress and most of the other parties like Samajwadi Party, JD(U) and Trinamool Congress. AIADMK, however, opposed the move.

“I am sure the enactment of GST will bring about the best economic management in its federal form,” Jaitley said while commending the bill for consideration.

He said legislation was being enacted in the best possible way in the Indian federalism.

He said there was a need for a political consensus as far as possible to bring this bill and a process of dialogue with all major political parties and states was undertaken and the “best possible output was incorporated in the bill”.

“A legislation of this kind cannot be made on the basis of a partisan approach. It impacts on the Centre and states and we have systematically worked towards a political consensus.

There is as far a consensus as possible if not unanimity as far as language and contents of the bill are concerned,” the Minister said.

Jaitley said, “the merits of the system are that it will convert India into one economic market and will introduce a uniform tax across the country, check evasion of tax. This would also give a boost as far as growth rate is concerned.”

Speaking on behalf of Congress, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said his party supports “idea” of GST as well as the bill, which he noted had been improved after the government held talks with various parties, including his.

“The Congress party was never against the idea of GST.

The country is now ready to embrace the GST,” he said, adding his party had opposed the 2014 bill but not the “idea”.

“We wanted it (bill) to be more perfect. But there can never be a perfect bill,” he said.

Spelling out the problems his party had with the bill, he said Congress wanted a cap of 18 percent on the tax rate under GST, scrapping of 1 percent retrograde tax besides setting up of disputes redressal mechanism for resolving issues arising out of tax disputes between states.

“The government was (initially) rather stubborn…I, on behalf of my party, loudly and clearly wanted that the tax should be not more than 18 percent…Taxation is the exclusive power of Parliament, we can give some leverage to the Executive, but it should remain the domain of Parliament.

“I want an assurance from the Finance Minister that when the GST Bill is brought, it will brought as a financial bill and not as a money bill. This is far too transformational and important legislation that one House of Parliament should just speak on it and the other will vote. We want that both Houses should debate and vote on it,” he said.

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