No such thing as a perfect bill… many flaws could be fixed, says P Chidambaram

The idea was not opposed; the bill [of 2014] was opposed because we felt that it was possible to have a more perfect bill, says Chidambaram.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: August 4, 2016 1:38 am
GST, GST bill, Rajya Sabha, P chidambaram, arun jaitley, GST discussion, Rajya sabha discussion, goods and services tax, gst bill pass, parliament, congress, indian express news, GST bill news, GST bill updates, india news Chidambaram arrives in Parliament Wednesday. Source: Anil Sharma

“I welcome the friendly and conciliatory tone of the finance minister’s speech. I think the tone and approach has changed over the last three or four weeks, and that augurs well for this bill…

“If I may say in a lighter vein, between 2011-14, I did virtually what was called char dham travelling between my prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the empowered council of state finance ministers. We tried to pass the GST Bill with the support of the principal Opposition party and we failed. In the last 18 months, the government tried to pass it without the support of the principal Opposition party, and I am glad that you have also failed…

“The Congress was never opposed to the idea of a GST… The idea was not opposed; the bill [of 2014] was opposed because we felt that it was possible to have a more perfect bill… There can be no such thing as a perfect bill… but when we found that there were too many flaws in the bill, and many of those flaws could be fixed by addressing them seriously, we decided that we could support the bill…

“I wish to point out to the finance minister that there are still pieces of clumsy drafting in this bill. For example, in the list of amendments, you have made some provisions for what will go into the Consolidated Fund of India and what will not go into the Consolidated Fund of India. This problem should have been noticed much earlier…

“I now come to the more important part of this bill, which is, the heart of the bill, the core of the bill. This is about the rate of tax… It is not a matter between the Union finance minister and the state finance ministers. There is a third line to the triangle; that is the people of this country… An indirect tax, by definition, is a regressive tax. Any indirect tax falls equally on the rich and poor. If you buy a soft drinks bottle; whether a rich buys it or a poor man buys it, he pays the same excise duty on the soft drinks bottle… In the name of the people, I ask you to keep this rate at the rate recommended by your chief economic adviser, namely, the standard rate should not exceed 18 per cent…

“Taxation is the exclusive power of Parliament. It should remain the exclusive power of Parliament. We can give some flexibility to the executive, but eventually, it is Parliament which must call the shots on what the rate is…

“I want an assurance from the Leader of the House, the honorable finance minister, my good friend and fellow lawyer, that when that bill is brought, it will be brought as a financial bill and not as a money bill… This is something within the power of the government to say, ‘Yes, we will introduce the CGST bill and the IGST bill as financial bills and both Houses will debate, both Houses will vote’… And, I say, after the debate, my party will support this bill, but we require assurances from the finance minister.”

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