Barely a week after criticising the government for tagging non-tax bills with the Finance Bill, Opposition parties targeted it Monday for bringing in four key bills to roll out GST without listing these and not giving them enough time to study the bills. The Opposition protested as soon as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rose to introduce four bills – Central GST, Integrated GST, Union Territories GST and compensation law. Congress MP K C Venugopal said these bills had not been listed in the day’s agenda, nor had the government mentioned them when the business for the this week was finalised Friday. “MPs have the right to raise questions and discuss the bills. This is curtailing the right of the MPs to study and discuss it,” Venugopal said.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy termed the government move a “midnight manoeuvre”. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs S S Ahluwalia said the bills were uploaded on the government website on midnight Friday.
The MPs objected at this, asking how the government could expect the members to check the website at midnight and why the issue was not discussed at the meeting of the Business Advisory Committee last week. “If it was there since Friday night, why is it not there in today’s list of business?” Roy said.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also opposed the way the GST bills were introduced.
The government proposes to launch GST from July 1. Once the bills are cleared by Lok Sabha, they will go to Rajya Sabha. The GST bills are being presented as money bills and the Upper House cannot make amendments to them. But if there are any suggestions, Lok Sabha can take a call on them. A money bill must be returned to Lok Sabha within 14 days or the bill is deemed to have passed both Houses in the form it was originally passed by Lok Sabha.
Rajya Sabha may not amend money bills but can recommend amendments. To make sure that Rajya Sabha doesn’t amend the bill by adding some non-money matters (known as financial bill), the Lok Sabha Speaker certifies the bill as a money bill before sending it to the Upper House, and the decision of the Speaker is binding on both Houses.
Dismissing the objections, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said it was true that the bills had not been listed. But they were circulated to MPs Saturday morning and said the MPs had had enough time to go through them, she said.
Last week, Jaitley had brought amendments to 40 laws incorporating them in the Finance Bill and the Opposition had alleged that the government was trying to get a “backdoor entry” for the bills by classifying them as money bills, which don’t require the approval of Rajya Sabha. Jailtey had justified the amendments as being “incidental provisions” to the Finance Bill.