Amid the Opposition’s criticism that the Bill’s nomenclature was a bid to impose Hindi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday introduced the Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020, in Lok Sabha. The Bill aims to provide for resolution of disputed tax cases involving Rs 9.32 lakh crore.
While the minister said the Bill emphasises on building trust, the Congress objected to its name, saying that the name of Bills should be in English, considering the diversity of languages used by the population in the country.
Raising an objection, Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury pointed out only 43 per cent of the country’s population understands Hindi. “Who will understand whats Vivad? Do people in your state understand it?” he asked Sitharaman. “In a subtle way, you are imposing Hindi on others,” Chowdhury alleged.
Thiruvananthpuram MP Shashi Tharoor claimed that the Bill treats the honest and the dishonest equally and sought its withdrawal. Speaker Om Birla rejected the Opposition’s objections and allowed Sitharaman to introduce it.
Responding to the charges, Sitharaman replied, “In my Budget speech, I have very clearly used two different expressions. One was in English. I did say that this relates to no dispute but only trust, and while drafting the Bill, of course, they have used the Hindi name. But that does not mean that there is an imposition of Hindi.” The minister said the scheme will not be an open-ended scheme that can be availed for a limited time. The Bill seeks to provide a formula-based solution without any discrimination, she said.
According to the minister, the proposed legislation will reduce the litigation expenditure for the government and at the same time, may help in generating revenue.
“… nearly 4,83,000 cases are pending about which I mentioned in my Budget speech, and approximately Rs 9.32 lakh crore is the amount which is pending for over a year. Many of these cases are not disposed of that easily. …For both the government and for the taxpayer, it becomes a sort of big money-spending exercise where people are spending money in the court defending their case or we are arguing our case,” the minister said.
In her Budget speech, Sitharaman had announced Vivad se Vishwas scheme to resolve 4,83,000 direct tax disputes pending in various tribunals. Under the scheme, taxpayers whose tax demands are locked in dispute in multiple forums can pay due taxes by March 31, 2020, and get complete waiver of interest and penalty.
Tharoor said, “First, the Bill endorses the idea of exempting the defaulting taxpayers of their penalty and interest on the aggregate amount and getting away with the payment of the disputed tax alone. This violates the fundamental right to equality since it is arbitrary and treats equals unequally which leads to an unreasonable classification. So, the honest taxpayer and the dishonest taxpayer are being treated equally and that is not reasonable.”