Government scores over opposition; GST Bill tabled

Rajat Kain

jaitley_budgetThe lower house of the Parliament has initiated discussions over the Goods and Service Tax Bill after it was tabled by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday afternoon. The opposition parties continued with their demand of referring the bill to Parliamentary Standing Committee but their demand was rejected by the Speaker, thereby giving her nod for the discussion on important finance legislation. The voting may take place tomorrow.

Moving the long-pending bill, Arun Jaitley said, “This bill has gone through the Standing Committee for two and a half years, dozens and dozens of meetings of empowered committees… Only then has a consensus happened… I beseech you rise above party considerations”.

But the opposition members insisted that the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill be sent to the Standing Committee as the incumbent government has made changes in the original draft brought by the previous UPA government.

Members of Congress, BJD, AIADMK and CPI (M) slammed the BJP-led NDA government for “bypassing” Parliamentary Standing Committees by refusing to refer several bills to it. But their demand was rejected by the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

The Finance Minister on the other hand argued that if the GST Bill was sent back to the panel, it would “deny the benefits to the states by another financial year as the deadline of April 1, 2016 will be missed”.

He further added that the “Standing Committee has already deliberated upon the measure for two-and-a-half years and barring a few points, there was a broad consensus in the empowered committee of state Finance Ministers on the provisions of the Bill”.

The government also emphasised that “a sort of consensus has emerged between the Centre and the states through the empowered committee of state Finance Ministers”.

Earlier, the Opposition led by Congress party suffered a set-back on its move to oppose the GST Bill as other opposition parties Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal gave their support for the legislation.

GST Bill is a Constitution amendment bill which has to be ratified by at least 50 per cent of the state legislatures. The voting on the bill is expected to take place on Wednesday after a detailed discussion in the bill.