Amid protests from the Opposition which accused the government of “bulldozing” Parliamentary democracy, Lok Sabha passed a bill that seeks to tax black money deposited in banks post-demonetisation by voice voice Tuesday, without debate. The Opposition questioned how the government introduced Taxation Laws (2nd Amendment) Bill 2016 without giving members time to move amendments.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the tax, surcharge, penalty and interest on the deposit would go to welfare schemes for the poor. “It will give a means to the Government of India to run schemes like Garib Kalyan Kosh…” he said.
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Jaitley said the bill, moved Monday, was brought after it came to the government’s notice that some people were trying to illegally exchange the demonetised Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes. Under the new legislation, anyone caught with unaccounted money after the last date for declaration will be liable to pay a tax of 60 per cent and an additional surcharge of 25 per cent of the tax – or 15 per cent of the unaccounted money — which will add up to 75 per cent.
“The PM made a huge announcement on November 8 of fighting the menace of black money and corruption in the country. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation move, the intention was clearly to wipe out black money. The BJP government has always taken measures to curb the circulation of black money,” Jaitley said amid protests — by Congress, Left and Trinamool MPs in the well, by AIADMK and NCP MPs in front of their respective seats.
“This is an attempt to get the (black) money into the mainstream.. and to provide for the welfare of the poor,” Jaitley said.
After an abrupt adjournment at 2:05pm, the House met at 2:30 pm and Opposition MPs objected to the consideration of the bill saying it cannot be discussed before the debate on demonetisation as the measure was a follow-up of the currency withdrawal move. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and the TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay suggested that an adjournment motion on demonetisation – which has been rejected by the Speaker — and this bill be discussed together as the issues were similar.
The BJD’s Bhartruhari Mehtab said a debate on demonetisation was also necessary along with a debate on the bill as it had serious repercussions on the Income Tax laws. He said both the government and the Opposition should find a way to do so.
Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congrdss alleged that Jaitley has introduced the Bill “stealthily” amid the din in the House Monday and the Opposition did not get a chance to oppose its introduction as per rules.
In between the protests, Jaitley pointed out that some remarks by the Opposition MPs had “cast aspersions” on the Speaker. He was seen alerting Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who rose and said the Opposition had not bothered when the bill had been introduced Monday.
The RSP’s N K Premachandran said amendments to a money bill need the President’s approval but the bill was tabled only Monday afternoon as a supplementary agenda. The MPs had no time to furnish the formalities and move amendments, he said.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan ruled out all objections saying the bill is of urgent public importance and must be passed immediately. Though she wanted a debate, she said, “it is impossible” because of the behaviour of Opposition members. She disallowed amendments moved by Opposition members as they required approval of the President, which could not be obtained.
Government sources said the passage of the bill would give impetus to its campaign against black money because it will “not just bring back black money into the system but also be politically an advantage to the party.”
The government is optmistic that the passage of the bill in the din would be seen as a sign of its commitment and would force the Opposition to debate the issue in Lok Sabha in the coming days.