The Delhi Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed a resolution to ratify the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill or the Goods and Services Tax Bill passed by the Parliament. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who moved the resolution in the Assembly said, “We think the GST Bill is in the interest of Delhi. Delhi supports it. The more the tax system is unified and made easy, the better it will be.”
The GST bill had, for the first time, acknowledged Delhi as a state and sought the Delhi assembly’s ratification, Sisodia said. He later tweeted, “GST Bill for the first time recognises Delhi as a state under the new Constitutional amendment to Art 366 – step in right direction finally.” The BJP at the Centre and the AAP in Delhi have been locked in a bitter turf war since the Arvind Kejriwal government took charge in February 2015.
In a setback to the Delhi government, the Delhi High Court on August 4 held that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory under the authority of the Lieutenant Governor.
Although the legislative assembly passed the resolution to ratify the single indirect tax regime, Sisodia expressed ‘concerns’ over its implementation in the future. “This is a major tax reform. We support reform but we want our concerns to be addressed,” said Sisodia.
He said that the Delhi government had interacted with many small traders and felt that they need to be assured that the tax burden on them will not increase.
“The tax threshold for Value Added Tax is Rs 20 lakh. Businesses that make Rs 85,000 to Rs 1 lakh don’t need registration etc. But if this threshold is reduced to Rs 10 lakh then small businesses will feel burdened. I think this threshold should be made Rs 25 lakh,” said Sisodia.
He added that although these questions will arise only when the GST Bill is made into a law and rules under it are framed, it is important that states are consulted prior to that. He said that finance ministers of all states should meet to address their concerns over the GST Bill.
He said that the state should be allowed to collect the tax for a turnover of upto Rs 1.5 crore. “If an inspector from the state and the Centre both show up at a small businessman’s door, the businessman will be very unhappy. Instead of simplifying the tax regime, this will make it more difficult,” Sisodia said. He said that small traders should not face exploitation in the name of tax reform.
Before Sisodia moved the resolution, Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta and his party colleague Jagdish Pradhan had staged a walkout from the assembly.
“I want to say one more thing. GST was discussed for 13 years. When the Congress wanted to bring it, the BJP said no. When the BJP wanted to bring it, the Congress was caught in ifs and buts. After opposing the GST Bill for over 10 years, all BJP spokespersons were tutored to endorse it. But when the Delhi assembly discussed it, the leader of opposition was not present. The House should take note that the leader of opposition ran away from his responsibility,” said Sisodia.
Even as AAP MLAs spoke in favour of ratifying the GST Bill, Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba said that while the Delhi government was in support of the Centre’s GST Bill, the Centre too must act on the Delhi government Bills that are awaiting its approval.