March 29, 2017
Vivek Gupta speaks on the Finance Bill
Thank You, Sir, for giving me an opportunity to speak today. Sir, as the Finance Bill is a little disturbing for me because my State – আমার সোনার বাংলা – my West Bengal is going to be deprived of Rs 4,000 crore every year just on account of non-division of the cess and surcharge that the Central Government is going to collect. Sir, the cess and surcharge over the last two to three years have jumped from a mere amount of Rs 20,000 or Rs 30,000 crore to 1.7 lakh crore.
Sir, rough pen and paper calculation shows that West Bengal will be deprived of Rs 4,000 crore because cess and surcharge is not shared with the States. Sir, what is more intriguing is that all the people who have spoken before me in the Council of States, have chosen not to raise this point because each and every State will get affected from this point.
Sir, the Finance Minister made forty amendments in Lok Sabha. I request him to make similar amendments here and remove all cess and surcharge and include them in the taxes, so that the States also get a share.
Sir, enough has been said before me but I would like to draw your attention to a few things. Sir, the tribunals have been merged and a lot of changes have been done. Sir, enough has been said about Money Bill. I just want to quote something, Sir. The Supreme Court, in the Madras Bar Association vs Union of India, in 2014, had held that “appellate tribunals have similar powers to High Courts and hence matters related to appointments should be free from the executive involvement.” Sir, I urge, through you, that all the tribunals, which are now being put under the executive control, should be free from executive control so that their independence is maintained.
Sir, Clause 50 of this Finance Bill is a very interesting clause. This government, our Prime Minister and Finance Minister, both of them have repeatedly said that they will not do any retrospective changes and they will not do any tax terrorism. But Sir, if you see Clause 50 and Clause 51 they have done exactly the same.
Sir, first I’ll refer to Clause 51 and I will just read from there. “In Section 132 of the Income Tax Act, in Sub Section 1, the following explanation shall be inserted and shall be deemed to have been inserted with effect from the first day of October 1975”. Sir, if this is not retrospective change, I fail to understand what is retrospective change.
Sir, another draconian provision, Clause 50, in section 132, Sir, where they are saying, “shall not be disclosed to any person of authority or Appellate Tribunal’. Sir, I was going through the Honourable Finance Minister’s reply in the Lok Sabha where he said he is doing it because he wants to protect the person who is giving the information. Sir, I am sure there is the Whistleblowers Act and other Acts that provide some confidentiality. Don’t disclose the name of the person but at least the reason can be given at the Appellate level. Sir, why is the assessee being denied a chance to defend himself? Why should he not know why the Income Tax people are doing certain seizure on him? Then again, Sir, 9(b) of Clause 50 says, merely by getting the sanction of the Director General provisionally any property can be attached. Sir, I think we are going back to the dark ages. I don’t know what will happen.
Sir, as I have said before, frequent changes – as many as 40 amendments – have been made in the Finance Bill on the day it was introduced in Lok Sabha. But, if you see this Finance Bill, here more than 300 amendments have been made. Sir, why does a tax law need so many amendments and so many changes every year? Why can’t we have a thorough discussion once and for all and move for a simplified ease of doing business, as this Government claims.
Sir, I just have three questions for the government. Sir, the Finance Minister in his reply to the Lok Sabha said that the RBI is still checking for fake notes in the currency deposited during demonetisation. Sir, I would like to know – whenever the Finance Minister speaks – how much loss has the RBI suffered on account of accepting fake notes? RBI’s loss means ultimately we are suffering.
He also said that there are many instances where people with five PAN cards have been discovered. Sir, I would like to know what is the number of such people who have been prosecuted. How many people have been discovered with multiple PAN cards?
And Sir, the last point. Even the Law Minister himself said on the floor of the House that in 46% cases, the government is the litigant. Is there any plan to reduce this reputation? Are they planning to file cases based on merit and not just on a monetary limit? Right now there are monetary limits for going to higher courts but not on the merit of the case.