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GST Bill amendments circulated in Parliament, government gears up for discussion in Rajya Sabha tomorrow

India TV Politics Desk New Delhi 02 Aug 2016, 19:41:28 PM IST
India TV Politics Desk

The government today circulated official amendments to the GST bill among the members in the Parliament as it geared up to discuss the long-pending bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

According to the amendments, GST Council will be required to establish a mechanism for adjudication of disputes, which could arise between the Centre and states or among states themselves.

The 2014 bill authorised GST Council to decide upon the modalities for resolution of disputes.

The government today proposed six official amendments to the 2014 bill. The government has listed the long-pending GST Bill for discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, hoping it will be passed through consensus. 

 “The GST Bill is listed for Wednesday. We hope it will be passed through consensus,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters here on Monday.

The government had initially planned to take up the Bill on Tuesday but opted to delay it by a day so that parties have enough time to talk to their members.

“The mood is in favour of passing the bill,” Ananth Kumar said, adding that talks are being held with different political parties as the bill concerns all the states.

In view of the development, the BJP has issued whip for all its Rajya Sabha MPs to be present in the House for the next three days.

BJP sources said the whip has been issued in connection with the key reform bill, which has been high on the government’s agenda but stalled by Congress over some provisions.

A constitution amendment requires support of two-third members present and voting. The amendment will then have to be approved by 50 percent of all the state assemblies.

The BJP-led NDA government lacks a majority in the Upper House but has managed to get support of several regional parties on the legislation.

Congress on board?

Bhartiya Janta Party and Congress reached a consensus on the GST bill, senior party leader Anand Sharma said today. 

“Negotiations with the Govt helped bring clarity, understanding and a near consensus on issues,” he said.

Terming Congress as the ‘original authors’ of the bill, Sharma said, “We are the original authors, if the nation gets GST, Congress would have made a notable contribution.”

To bring Congress on board, the government last week cleared changes in the constitutional amendment bill, including doing away with the additional 1 per cent tax by producing states and compensating all states for any revenue loss in the first five years post the GST roll out.

The Congress had also demanded that a clause should be added in the constitutional amendment that the GST rate should not go beyond 18 per cent. However, the party agreed to let go of its demands after all other demands were met. The government has not mentioned anything in the official amendments in this regard. 

In the first official confirmation, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi yesterday said that the party will support its passage when the Bill is tabled in Parliament.

Noting that there had been movement on the subject, Singhvi said that the government's decision to table a fresh GST Constitutional Amendment Bill was a "clear sign of convergence".

The GST was first mooted by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Jaitley has been meeting leaders of Congress and other parties, including SP, BJD, TMC and RJD, to build a consensus on the passage of the long-pending indirect tax reform bill in the Rajya Sabha. It was approved by the Lok Sabha in May 2015.

The Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014, which lays the ground for roll out of Goods and Services Tax regime that will subsume all indirect taxes including central excise duty and state VAT/sales tax, is listed for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow.

The amendments also seek to clarify that state's share of Integrated GST (iGST) will not form part of the Consolidated Fund of India and the term iGST itself would be replaced by 'goods and services’ tax levied on supplies in the course of inter-state trade or commerce' in Clause 12 dealing with apportionment of the proceeds.

It was also clarified that Central GST (CGST) and the centre's share of GST will be distributed between the Centre and the states.

Earlier, some members, including Naresh Agarwal of SP, raised concerns in the Rajya Sabha that they had not received copies of the GST Bill or the amendment.

Jaitley told Rajya Sabha the amendments to the Bill, pending in the Upper House for last one year, were given to the Secretariat of the House two days ago and have been circulated to the members.

The Bill, which was approved by the Lok Sabha in May, provided for 1 per cent additional tax on inter-state trade and commerce for two years or more as may be decided by the GST Council.

Even the Rajya Sabha Select Committee had suggested removal of this provision as it would lead to cascading of taxes.

Congress originally mooted GST in 2006 and a constitution amendment bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in March 2011 but it lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.