New Delhi, July 18: The Lok Sabha on Thursday stamped its seal of approval on the Finance Bill, 2019, by a voice vote.
Piloting the Bill, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Modi government is working towards ease of living of the people and underlined the fact that proposed direct tax amendments seek to give an impetus to 'Make in India' through a reduction of rates for more than 99 per cent of the companies. In the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah in the House, Ms Sitharaman said Foreign Portfolio Investors registered as trusts will have to pay new tax surcharge.
FPIs may consider option of structuring as companies & those registered as trusts may consider being listed as companies, she asserted.Amendments to Reserve Bank of India Act, the Minister said, were intended to strengthen the Central bank's regulatory powers.
She said, 'We have come up with a proposal that interest on bad and doubtful debts in the case of deposit-taking Non-Banking Financial Companies and systemically important non-deposit taking NBFCs shall be charged on tax on receipt basis and not on accrual basis.'
Indian National Congress averred that Government had encroached upon the territory of Parliament. Initiating the debate, Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury opposed the Bill, saying the legislation amends several Acts which do not come within its ambit.
He said this year two Finance Bills were brought by the government. In the Finance Bill, 2019, he said 18 laws connected with Union Budget, do not relate to taxes.
The Congress leader endorsed the objections raised by Revolutionary Socialist Party's N K Premachandran that it was a 'backdoor legislation' and cited Lok Sabha's first Speaker Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar, second Speaker M A Ayyangar and Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker of 16th Lok Sabha. He said that powers given to the Reserve Bank of India under the Finance Bill, should not come under the purview of the proposed law.
Mr Premachandran said that these are permanent changes being made using a Money Bill. "The Bill amends several Acts, which do not come within the ambit of the Finance Bill. These are added to the Finance Bill to avoid discussion on these amendments," Mr Premachandran said when the Finance Bill was taken up for consideration and passage.
War of words
A heated exchange took place when Rajiv Ranjan Singh of Janata Dal-United and Bharatiya Janata Party's Arjun Meghwal and Rajiv Pratap Rudy pointed out that an issue could not be raised once the Chair had given its ruling.Mr Chowdhury retorted that precedents could not be treated as sacrosanct.Speaker OM Birla pacified the members.
Mr Chowdhury said earlier amendments to the Finance Bill, 2017 were awaiting adjudiciation by the Supreme Court.
As many as 20-25 Bills were under the scrutiny of courts as the Government has brought a plethora of amendments.
The Congress leader alleged that the nation's economy was in shambles and employment situation was too bleak to describe.
'Either you move in virtuous circle or vicious circle, you have to decide,' he said.
Mr Chowdhary questioned the Government about the roadmap to progress to a 5-trillion dollar economy.
Referring to Congress governments for a long period in the country, Mr Chowdhary said, 'You cannot say the past is a cancelled cheque' and the present dispensation should not boast that it was the saviour of India as the situations were not comparable.
He also took a dig at Ms Sitharaman and said 'You are my teacher. Don't take it otherwise.' Mr Chowdhury said the minister liked 'elephants' and 'you need wealth to capture wealth.'
In her budget speech, Ms Sitharaman had quoted a Sangam-era Tamil classic that 'An elephant will be happy to have two mounds of rice from a paddy field. But if it enters land, it will have far less to eat then it will trample.'
The Opposition member also requested the Government to rescind the circular issued on June 24 by the Central Board of Direct Taxes withdrawing the benefit of income tax exemption on the disability pension to military veterans who had retired after serving their full term.
Ms Sitharaman responded that the Finance Bill will look into the taxation process keeping in mind the agenda of 'Make in India'.
The Finance Minister said under direct taxation, seven Acts are being amended, furthering the agenda of 'Make in India' aim of the Government. Ms Sitharaman said several measures under direct taxation have been taken amending including Payments Act, Black Money Act, Finance Bill, 2016 and Benami Act.Under indirect taxation also, seven Acts were being amended comprising Customs Act, Custom Tariff Act, GST tax, Financial Act, 2002, Financial Act, 2018, CGST Act and IGST Act, she maintained.
In this regard, the minister also mentioned eight laws for financial markets including the SEBI Act, RBI Act, Insurance Act and National Housing Bank Act. Central Road Fund Act was being amended, she said, adding that this will bring clarity and was necessary.
BJP's Nishikant Dubey said the biggest achievement of the Government was to bring benami property transaction Bill to curb corruption and alleged that Congress-led governments have nurtured corruption.The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government has done the task of speeding up the economy of the nation since 2014, Mr Dubey said.
He said there were many drawbacks in the Benami Property Transaction Act of 1988 and the Narendra Modi government had brought amendment bills in an attempt to curb corruption.
Midhun Reddy of Yuvajan Shramik Ryuthu Congress Party pressed the party's demand for a Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh.
All India Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy criticised the Government for demonetisation.He also said the Finance Bill was brought in as Money Bill to escape scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha. The AITC member said an Amendment in the Finance Bill would take away powers of the Goods and Services Tax council.' I oppose GST Amendment inclusion in the Finance Bill,' he said.Shiv Sena's Rahul Shewale, Biju Janata Dal member Bhartruhari Mahtab, Sanjay Jaiswal (BJP) and Nationalist Congress Party lawmaker Supriya Sule also took part in the discussion. (UNI)