Former finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather on Wednesday called the PDP-BJP government’s concurrence to extend the 101st constitutional amendment to the state “the final nail in the coffin of J&K’s special status’’. “The resolution that they passed today in the Assembly is vague and a ploy to hoodwink the public, which will not accept this substantial breach in our special status,’’ said Rather, the former chairman of the Empowerment Committee of State Finance Ministers on GST.
“The resolution recommends consent to GST with a vague caveat saying that it must be done in a modified manner to safeguard the existing special constitutional position of J&K and legislative powers under the J&K Constitution. They did not agree to tell us what modifications are they seeking that would enable the safeguarding of our special status because they do not have anything.’’
He said that once the cabinet gives its consent to extend the law to the state, it is an irreversible process. “The last bit of the powers that the state had left with it under Article 370 will also go,” he said. “This is why we have been consistently asking the state government, especially finance minister Haseeb Drabu, to tell us the nature of the safeguards they are securing for J&K’s special status, while giving consent for this new tax law.’’
He said that they have had two all-party meetings, where the government promised to explain its position in the Assembly. “Now they have not said anything in the Assembly as well. This is a mere ploy and they are out to do unthinkable damage to our special status only because they do not want to lose power.’’
Rather said that the Centre’s authority to levy tax is derived from the Constitution’s Article 246. “The constitutional base for taxation in J&K is different. J&K derives its power to levy taxes from the J&K Constitution.’’ Rather said that the coalition’s motive to bring this issue to the Assembly is suspicious. He added that the state legislature has no role in it because this law can be extended through a Presidential order at the recommendation of the state government. “We (the National Conference) have always challenged this because such powers were only with the Constituent Assembly of J&K which ceases to exist.’’
He said that once this new law is extended, the state will cease to derive its power to levy taxes from the J&K Constitution. “This vital power will go to the Union government and Central GST Council will decide rates, administer tax and schedule categories of taxation rates for us as well.’’
“Once the GST law is extended, J&K will lose complete power to legislate on taxation and J&K Constitution’s section 5 (of Part II) will lose its relevance. It will be a permanent erosion of our fiscal autonomy, which will substantially weaken our special status…. Once this law (GST) is made applicable, it will open floodgates and there would not be much left of the essence of Article 370. And if 101st amendment is extended entirely, then Article 370 becomes irrelevant.’’