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No meeting of GST council called in last 6 months: Punjab FM

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal.   | Photo Credit: Twitter@MSBADAL

The GST council had not met in the last six months in violation of its own rules that a meeting should be held once every quarter, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said in a letter to the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He said the Centre seemed to have usurped all the powers of the States.

The meeting assumed importance with COVID-19 significantly impacting the economy and key decisions on waiver of GST on implements such as sanitizers and masks needed to be taken urgently, he said.

The States have the deciding rights in the GST council. But with no meeting in the last six months, Mr. Badal said, many provisions have been enacted in recent times through the route of subordinate legislation (Rules). Mr. Badal also pointed out that the delegation of the authority to the Committee of Officers or GST Implementation Committee was meant for mundane matters and not to bring substantive changes.

“We are feeling cheated today,” Mr. Badal said at a virtual press conference called by the Congress, explaining that the States have the deciding rights in the GST council. GST revenues, he said, constituted nearly 50 percent of the tax revenues of the States.

“Failure to hold any constructive consultation with States for so long in such critical times makes me wonder whether the Centre has usurped all the power of States putting the spirit of cooperative federalism- that formed the very foundation of achieving consensus on the epic reform - on the backburner,” Mr. Badal wrote in the letter to Ms. Sitharaman.

He said the Central government in five years of the GST implementation had not allowed the appointment of a vice chairman of the council who is to be chosen from the State Finance Ministers. “A vice chairman could have been the State governments portal to register their complaints and feedback.” This position had not been constituted, he stated, despite several requests from various States.

Without any vigil from the States, the government was resorting to “coercive tax collection”, with officers resorting to threats of arrest, provisional attachment of productive assets and freezing of bank accounts without any established norms.

There was an urgent need to revisit the GST rules. “In Punjab, there is a saying that if you have no one to consult, consult a wall. Here, in the middle of the pandemic, the government is not speaking to the States,” he observed.

There were many ambiguities in the current GST regime that were leading to pile-up of litigations, which needed to be sorted, he added.


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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 7:06:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/no-meeting-of-gst-council-called-in-last-6-months-punjab-fm/article34491022.ece

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