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Rajya Sabha returns Finance Bill amid Opposition boycott, Budget passed

With the Rajya Sabha returning both Bills, the Narendra Modi government’s first Budget in its second term was passed by Parliament.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
July 24, 2019 1:10:22 am
Parliament Monsoon Session, Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha Finance Bill, Rajya sabha Appropriation Bill, Donald Trump, Donald Trump on Kashmir, Narendra Modi, Indian express Finance Minister defends tax on petrol, diesel; duty on newsprint import

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday returned Finance Bill (No 2), 2019, and Appropriation Bill (No 2), 2019, even as most of the Opposition walked out without discussing it over the issue of US President Donald Trump’s remarks that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked for his intervention on the Kashmir issue.

Both being Money Bills, the Rajya Sabha does not vote on them, and can only return them. The Bills are passed only in the Lok Sabha.

With the Rajya Sabha returning both Bills, the Narendra Modi government’s first Budget in its second term was passed by Parliament.

As all Opposition parties, barring the TRS, YSRCP and BJD, walked out, there was barely any criticism of the Bills in the discussion.

In response, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended all parts of the Bill. She said that since inflation is at “rock bottom”, the government has decided to tax petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre. The tax can be lowered, if needed, she maintained.

Defending the 10-per cent duty on newsprint, Sitharaman said it has been imposed to “provide a level-playing field to domestic manufacturers”. Newsprint is being imported even though there is “capacity in this country” to produce it, and with global costs coming down last year, it has affected Indian manufacturers, she said.

The increased tax on super rich will help in “bringing far more equitable development”, she asserted.

Sitharaman defended the tax on large cash withdrawals by saying that it will not be over and above tax liability of the individual or the entity, and can be set off when I-T returns are filed. She also said that a report on a Direct Tax Code will be submitted on July 31 and the government was keen to reduce tax compliance burden on taxpayers.

Earlier, following a stormy morning, an unimpressed Opposition continued to disrupt Rajya Sabha proceedings in the afternoon, too. At 2 pm, when the two Bills were to be discussed, Congress leaders said they want Modi to apprise the House of Trump’s comments. Deputy Chairman Harivansh did not let the issue be raised and said that Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had already decided on it in the morning.

As Harivansh tried to push through with discussion on the Bills, Opposition leaders stormed the Well. Senior Congress member P Chidambaram said that “if a large section of the Opposition is agitated, you will have to adjourn the House, call them, and try to find a solution”.

He said that if this was the way the House will continue to work, then “why have a House at all?”. He asked whether the Opposition should “leave the House, leaving only the Treasury Benches and you present there”?

Leader of the House Thaawarchand Gehlot responded by saying that any minister can answer for the government, as there is collective responsibility, but that the Opposition was unhappy after Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s statement in the morning.

The House was adjourned till 3 pm, but not much changed when it resumed. As Opposition leaders continued to protest and demand for a statement from Modi, Deputy Chairman Harivansh again tried to start discussion on the Bills.

BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav intervened and said that the Lok Sabha is functioning smoothly. Being the House of Elders, he said, the Rajya Sabha should also be allowed to function.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad did not take lightly to the comment and said, “If the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were one, then it would be one House.” He said the Constitution provides for two Houses. “That House (Lok Sabha) gets dissolved. This House does not get dissolved — it’s a permanent House,” he said.

He said Bills in Lok Sabha are passed keeping in mind regional, linguistic considerations, and “religious considerations in the last five years”, but that does not happen in the Rajya Sabha. He said the government’s highhandedness cannot be allowed in the Rajya Sabha and asked the Opposition members to walk out.

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