‘One nation, one law’ becomes reality after GST begins in Kashmir (Intro Roundup)

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Srinagar, July 8 (IANS) The GST became applicable across India after the pan-India indirect tax regime commenced in Jammu and Kashmir from Saturday, hours after its assembly on Friday passed the state Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill on receiving President Pranab Mukherjee’s order “safeguarding” Kashmir’s special constitutional status and its exclusive taxation powers.

Jammu and Kashmir, the only state that enjoys a special status under Article 370 and has its own Constitution, became the last in the country to adopt the new taxation law, making “one nation, one tax” a reality.

The legislation — the Jammu and Kashmir Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 — was passed by a voice vote amid protests and boycott by the opposition that accused the government of compromising the special status by seeking a presidential order for extending the new tax regime in the state.

However, Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, who moved the bill in the assembly, said the government had sought the presidential order to assure Kashmir’s special status was safeguarded and that there was no impingement in the Article 370 or the state’s constitutions.

“Although there is no tradition of tabling a presidential order in the assembly, we are starting a new tradition in the democracy of the state by tabling this order in the House,” he said.

Drabu said the new tax regime would roll out in Jammu and Kashmir at midnight.

The state government on Wednesday passed a resolution in the assembly seeking a presidential order on a constitutional amendment. The state cabinet under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti then cleared a draft order for concurrence of President Mukherjee.

The government received on Friday morning the order relating to the application of provisions of the Constitution of India through an order of the President issued under Article 370 that gives special status to the state.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this order, the powers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as per Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, shall remain intact.

“Nothing in this article shall affect in any manner whatsoever the legislative competence of the state as guaranteed by virtue of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir,” the order read, adding that the state legislature “shall have the powers to make laws with respect to Goods and Services Tax”.

It said the concurrence of the representatives of the state in the Goods and Service Tax Council shall be mandatory and the procedure provided under Article 370 shall be followed for the purpose of any decision impinging on the constitutional provisions relating to the state.

Chief Minister Mufti said it was for the first time in the history since 1947 that “such a reassuring language about the special status and the powers of the state legislature has been used” while extending any central law in Jammu and Kashmir.

She also complimented her ally BJP — which has been demanding revocation of the Article 370 — for its support in securing the constitutional status of the state.

The entire opposition boycotted the session even as the Congress also walked out on the last day of the four-day special session.

Immediately after the passage of the bill, Speaker Kavinder Gupta announced adjourned the House sine-die.

Drabu at the end of the session made two “unusual requests” to the Speaker, seeking “a salute” from National Conference leader Devender Rana and resignation of Congress MLA G.M. Saroori.

Earlier, Rana had said he would salute Drabu if adequate constitutional safeguards were included in the preamble of the Presidential order on GST, while Saroori had said if the safeguards were included in the presidential order he would put in his papers.

–IANS

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