Economy

Opposition Angered as Income Tax Bill Amendment ‘Bulldozed’ Through Parliament

File photo of finance minister Arun Jaitley speaking in parliament. Credit: PTI

File photo of finance minister Arun Jaitley speaking in parliament. Credit: PTI

A bill that seeks to tax money deposited in banks post demonetisation was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, within minutes and without any debate.

Amid fierce slogan shouting from the opposition, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the Taxation Laws (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2016 was brought after it came to the government’s notice that some people were trying to illegally exchange the demonetised Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes.

He said as per the amendment proposed, those caught illegally converting money will have to cough up 60% tax plus penalties on the amount, which will come to a total of 85%.

Those who disclose black money to banks will have to pay 50% tax, including surcharge and penalty. While they will get back 25% immediately, the other 25% will be returned after four years.

“It will give means to the government of India to run schemes like Garib Kalyan Kosh…I urge the house to accept the amendments,” Jaitley said.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said since the Bill is of urgent public importance, it has to be passed immediately. Though she wanted a debate, she said “it is impossible” because of the behaviour of the opposition members.

Mahajan also disallowed some amendments moved by opposition members as they required the approval of the president, which could not be obtained.

Two amendments by N.K. Premchandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) and B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal) were allowed. While Premchandran refused to move the amendment as he was shouting slogans, Mahtab’s was negated by a voice vote.

Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy, speaking in parliament, questioned the way in which the ruling party was conducting itself. The government had not followed parliamentary procedures, he argued, since the amendment Bill was not in yesterday’s list of business. The opposition was not even given the opportunity to oppose the introduction of the Bill, he said, as the finance minister did so “surreptitiously” during protests.

“Then Madam, the next stage is under rule 74, which says the Bill may be taken into consideration and then under rule 75, which says there may be a discussion on the principles of the Bill. Now, the house, as you know Madam, has been in turmoil since November 16. Every day you are having to adjourn the house three to four times. Now this is a Bill which affects the government’s efforts on black money, it’s misguided efforts on demonetisation, etc. and this is a follow-up of the government’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and 1000 notes. The house has been in total turmoil. All of us in the opposition benches have vocally opposed the decision of the government,” he said.

“The finance minister is also proposing a Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan cess to give a special opportunity to black money holders. Now this is serious, Madam. So, this Bill should be discussed in all seriousness, a full-fledged deliberation must be held,” he continued.

“Another vital point has been mentioned by Mr Venugopal. Under Articles 117 and 274 of the Constitution, before bringing in the Bill, the president’s recommendation has to be obtained. The minister must have obtained the president’s recommendation. We have put in amendments to the same. For the amendments to be fruitful, again, the president’s recommendation is needed under Articles 117 and 274.”

“Now all I want is a proper and structured discussion on the government’s misguided efforts to curb black money through this Bill. It is necessary that the house be in perfect order before such a discussion can take place. And the house can be in perfect order after you have discussed the issue of demonetisation through an adjournment motion. Unless that happens, this Bill cannot be discussed,” he concluded. “The government’s plan is to pass the Bill in the din, Madam; this should not happen. The future of this nation is at stake.”

The Bill was later passed by a voice vote. 

“This will go down as a black day in the history of Lok Sabha,” Mohammed Salim, a Lok Sabha member who belongs to the CPI(M)told The Wire. “This is not the way taxation laws or any Bill can be passed. The government is bulldozing and I asked upon the chair not to be, not to allow the Lok Sabha to be, a wheel on that bulldozer. India is currently seeing both a political and fiscal emergency.”

“This is not an ordinary Act. They are saying come for discussion, we are saying we are ready for discussion. And yet today there is no discussion. This whole demonetisation is becoming a big fiasco. Everyday they are changing rules. Now they are changing Acts,” he continued.

(With PTI inputs)