Government misused Lok Sabha majority to get bill passed: Congress

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New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) The Congress on Saturday accused the government of tax terrorism and falsehood, saying it had misused its majority in the Lok Sabha to get passed the Finance Bill that seeks to amend 40 laws in one go.

The bill has unleashed a sordid culture of tax robbery and raid raj and provided a window to corporate cronies to maintain a film of opaqueness in political donations, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement here.

“For the first time in the history of independent India, Parliament has passed a bill that amends 40 laws in one go.

“The BJP government and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have not revealed whether these 40 laws come under the Finance Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha using the provisions of a money bill, by sheer misuse of majority in the lower house to trample constitutional propriety and established conventions,” Surjewala said.

He said instead of ensuing transparency, fairness, probity and equity, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had taken recourse to “opacity, subterfuge and deception”.

“The Finance Bill is a sad commentary on the government’s conduct, hell bent on destroying the relevance of the Rajya Sabha,” the Congress leader said.

He said amendment to the Income Tax Act in the Finance Bill 2017 provides for “draconian powers” to the Income Tax department to raid businesses and individuals if they have “reason to believe”.

The government has proposed an amendment in the Finance Act, 2017, to allow IT officials to not even to disclose the reasons for conducting search and seizure, he added.

Shockingly, Surjewala said, this change is retrospective in nature, coming from a Prime Minister and his government who came to power in 2014 on the promise of ending ‘retrospective taxation’ and ‘tax terrorism’, the Congress leader said.

“… a fresh assessment can now be undertaken by tax authorities from 1962 onwards. This has undone the entire edifice of stability of taxation and finality of tax orders,” Surjewala added.

The Congress leader said the bill enables anyone, including a foreign individual/ entity, to donate money to political parties anonymously through “electoral bonds”.

Surjewala said the government should have ensured that donations were made only by cheques for becoming eligible for tax exemption.

“There should have been declaration as what is the bond’s value, purchaser, and to whom it is donated. All this is absent, leading to complete opaqueness,” he said.

Surjewala said even the cap on donation by a company to a political party had been removed.

Referring to replacement of eight tribunals as provided in the Finance Bill, he said there were judicial/quasi-judicial bodies and the Centre can now choose their members through simple gazette notification.

“It is an assault on the integrity of such judicial/quasi-judicial bodies, which can now be filled at the whims and fancies of the executive.”

Surjewala also pointed out that `Voluntary Income Declaration Scheme’ entailed payment of 45 per cent tax whereas ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’ allows conversion of black money into white by paying 49.9 per cent tax only.

He said the existing Income Tax Act provides for 132 per cent amount as tax and penalty apart from prosecution of those caught with black money.

The Congress leader claimed that some changes in the Finance Bill did not even fall within the domain of the Finance Ministry.

“Cycle of hypocrisy, falsehood and deception by the government stands exposed. We believe that the majority in Parliament can never be used for subterfuge against the Constitution and the law by unleashing a new era of unbridled and unchecked tax terrorism and raid raj.”

–IANS

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