Manmohan speaks, Upper House clears GST bills

Posted April 07, 2017

The much-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill was on Wednesday presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for discussion and passage in Rajya Sabha.

The Lok Sabha had earlier, on 29 March, passed four key GST Bills, rejecting amendments moved by the opposition.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last August but it was brought before the Lower House as Rajya Sabha had passed it last month with two minor amendments.

Besides, GST compensation law allows for imposition of cess on certain luxury goods like tobacco, high-end cars and aerated drinks to create a fund for compensating states for any loss of revenue in the first five years after implementing the new indirect tax.

Finance Minster Arun Jaitley, on the other hand, said that he was "happy at the fact that when it comes to enforcing GST bill all political parties came out in one voice". "And that is something which is a very serious lacuna in this Bill, which has to be corrected", he said. The Congress' top leadership discussed the issue at length and decided not to press or move any amendments in the four GST enabling bills.

Participating in the debate, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal-United said that "GST should be made easy, so people do not have any tax related problems".

One more piece of legislation, the State GST Bill, will have to be passed by the legislative assemblies of States and Union Territories with legislature.

In the Rajya Sabha, however the party chose to support the government, sources said, because it did not want to be seen as a spoke in the development story, particularly since it authored GST.

With entertainment taxes getting subsumed in GST, prices of movie tickets and theatrical performances may become cheaper in most states. "There must be cooperation between the federal government and the state government to resolve those outstanding issues", said Dr Singh.

"There is only one amendment that was being planned by Jairam Ramesh, which is the one which says that anything passed by the GST Council should also get parliamentary approval", said Congress spokesperson Rajeev Gowda at a media briefing.

The GST Council will also take decisions regarding inclusion of petroleum products and alcohol in the GST network, one by one, in the foreseeable future.

The bill was introduced by Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar.

"Parliament can not be ignored", he said, suggesting that the GST should be audited by the comptroller and auditor general.

It has been set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to central and state governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the GST.

In the current GSTN structure, the Centre and the states together hold 49 per cent stake and the rest is owned by private banks and financial institutions.