The Rajya Sabha on Thursday gave its consent to the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, replacing an ordinance that was used to slash corporate tax rates in order to stimulate growth amid an uproar over the attack on Unnao rape survivor.
The Lok Sabha has already passed the taxation bill and the Upper House cleared the legislation with a voice vote without any changes.
As per rules, the Rajya Sabha cannot amend money bills but can recommend amendments. A money bill must be returned to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, or the bill is deemed to have passed both houses in the form it was originally passed by the Lok Sabha.
The bill, which replaces the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, promulgated in September with the aim of cutting the base corporate tax rate, was met with apprehensions and criticism by the Opposition. Parties like the Congress and Trinamool Congress raised objections and said that the legislation was "fundamentally flawed".
Opposition terms Taxation (Amendment) Bill as 'fundamentally flawed'
Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh said, "There are significant issues between the ordinance that was issued and the bill. We are living in an era of QSQT, not 'qayamat se qayamat tak'; it is 'quarter se quarter tak'. I am not a believer in QSQT. Because economies grow in the long term. But when you have six consecutive quarters of GDP decline, it is a cause of worry. The assumption of the bill is fundamentally flawed."
Sukhendu Sekar Ray of the Trinamool Congress said that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman should "consider and clear the pending GST compensations to five states, including West Bengal".
"This government is tapping the poor and patting the rich. The government has not provided anything to the poorer sections of society. Two crores of job creation every year was promised. Why has domestic consumption gone down? The welfare of 80 percent of the population is left out," DMK MP TKS Elangovan added.
BJP's ally in the NDA, the JD(U) also raised concerns about the number of times the bill had undergone amendments. Party leader Ram Chandra Singh, asserting that action needed to be taken on direct tax code, said, "When a baby is born, its face is cute. But when it gets smallpox, it gets all sorts of scars. The bill has got so many amendments that it's messed up."
The Upper House was adjourned for the day after it passed the bill by voice vote.
Good reforms to boost economy will continue: Nirmala Sitharaman
However, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman countered the objections of the Opposition point-by-point, and also slammed the parties for labelling the Centre's policies as "elitist".
Regarding the provisions in the bill, she said that the lower 15 percent tax rate for new manufacturing companies will not apply to computer software development, mining and printing of books. The amendment carries a negative list of industries that will not qualify for lower tax rate meant for manufacturing companies set up on or after 1 October, 2019 but that begin production before 2023, she said.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Rajya Sabha: Cutting down corporate tax is not just good for headlines,not just good PR,not just good atmospherics, it's good reform.This govt now in 2nd term,after taking up lot of reformatory steps in 1st term is committed to further reforms pic.twitter.com/MSoWDDPJNa
— ANI (@ANI) December 5, 2019
Sitharaman had on 20 September announced the lowering of the base corporate tax rate to 22 percent from 30 percent for companies that do not seek exemptions, and reduced the rate for some new manufacturing companies to 15 percent from 25 percent.
The corporate tax cut followed other measures by the government to prop up slowing GDP growth adopted since the May general elections. These include efforts to reduce red tape and boost foreign direct investment (FDI), and plans to consolidate the state-owned banks.
FM Nirmala Sitharaman in Rajya Sabha: What was statement given by one of the finance ministers when in 2012 price rise was high, "When urban middle class can buy a bottle of water for Rs 15 ,why do they make so much noise about price rise". pic.twitter.com/QAuEahWUsB
— ANI (@ANI) December 5, 2019
Sitharaman also promised to continue the rollout of reforms to boost the economy. GDP growth rate in July-September slowed to a six-year low of 4.5 percent.
Rajya Sabha adjourned amid uproar over attack on Unnao rape survivor
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for half-an-hour on Thursday afternoon amid an uproar by the Opposition parties, mainly the Congress, over the incident of a rape survivor set ablaze in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh. Opposition parties raised the issue as soon as the House resumed in the afternoon to consider the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Congress leader Anand Sharma urged Deputy Chairman Harivansh to at least listen to the Opposition members who wanted to discuss the incident of the attack on the Unnao rape survivor.
The deputy chairman did not pay any heed to the Opposition members and asked KK Ragesh of the CPM to move a resolution to disapprove the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance. While the Opposition members kept on raising the issue loudly, the deputy chairman asked Ragesh to proceed with the resolution.
Ragesh replied that he could not move the resolution and asked him to bring the House to order. The deputy chairman then adjourned the House.
P Chidambaram attends Rajya Sabha after 106 days in jail
Congress leader P Chidambaram, who on Wednesday was released from the Tihar Jail on bail after 106 days in custody in the INX Media money-laundering case, was present in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. Chidambaram, who walked out of jail on Wednesday night, joined other Congress MPs voicing their protest against the steep hike in onion prices and said he was happy to be back.
"The government cannot suppress my voice in the Parliament," the Rajya Sabha MP told reporters in the Parliament complex before the proceedings of the Upper House. When the former Union finance minister entered the Upper House to attend the proceedings, he was greeted by party colleagues Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma.
Opening statement of Shri P. Chidambaram 5 December, 2019 pic.twitter.com/DUmUvWlklh
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) December 5, 2019
Chidambaram sat on his regular seat in the second row of the Opposition bench beside Sharma. He asked for business scheduled from the staff and went through it carefully till papers were laid in the House, PTI reported.
Conservation, development should go together: Nitin Gadkari on stalled road projects
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari expressed regret in the Lok Sabha over hurdles like land acquisition and environment clearance faced by various road projects, saying the country must have a positive approach towards development. Gadkari also asked all MPs to remain aware about road projects in their respective constituencies and help in resolving problems coming on the way of constructing roads and bridges.
"Everyone says 'stop the work'. No one says 'do the work'. The country has to have a positive approach and attitude towards development projects," he said during Question Hour. Describing the process of acquiring land and environment clearance as the major hurdles, the Union road transport and highways minister said environment and development have to go together.
"I am pro-environment. But environment and development have to go side by side," he said.
The Lower House also held a long discussion over the agrarian crisis, specifically crop loss and its impact on farmers.
Subsidy on food in Parliament canteen to be scrapped
Subsidies in Parliament canteens are set to go, with leaders across party lines on Thursday agreeing to the suggestion from Speaker Om Birla and asserting that it is not appropriate to provide such hefty concessions.
The waiver of subsidies will result in saving around Rs 17 crore annually, official sources said, adding that many food items will cost almost double than the current prices once the decision comes into effect.
The subsidies in these canteens have long been a contentious issue and the government had reduced them a few years ago following a hue and cry after it came to light that the Parliament canteens were being subsidised to the extent of 80 percent of the cost.
Following a meeting that the Speaker had with floor leaders of different parties of the Business Advisory Committee, a decision was taken to do away with the subsidies altogether.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 05, 2019 20:56:41 IST