Budget Session: Congress, other Opposition parties seek JPC or SC-monitored probe into Adani Group crisis

February 02, 2023 09:21 pm | Updated 09:21 pm IST

Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge and other Opposition MPs addressing the media outside Parliament House.

Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge and other Opposition MPs addressing the media outside Parliament House. | Photo Credit: R V MOORTHY

Upping the ante, the Congress and other Opposition parties on February 2 demanded a Joint Parliament Committee or a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the Adani Group crisis.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge said the Opposition parties also demanded that there should be day-to-day reporting of the Joint Parliament Committee (JPC) or the SC-monitored probe into the issue which concerns public money.

“Keeping public interest in mind, we want a thorough probe into the Adani issue either by a Joint Parliamentary Committee [JPC] or a Supreme Court-monitored Committee. There should also be day-to-day reporting of the investigation on the issue,” Kharge told reporters.

Earlier, leaders of like-minded parties met in the chamber of Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and discussed the issues that are to be brought up during the session which began on January 31. Sources said the parties decided to jointly raise the Adani Group crisis in Parliament and demand a discussion on it.

Leaders of the Congress, the DMK, the TMC, the SP, the JD(U), the Shiv Sena, the CPI(M), the CPI, the NCP, the IUML, the NC, the AAP and the Kerala Congress were present at the meeting.

The Opposition parties sought to discuss the Adani issue, Chinese transgressions at the border and role of Governors in States, and demanded a discussion. Nine MPs, including Kharge, Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, BRS MP K. Keshava Rao and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh, had given notices under rule 267 seeking suspension of regular business to discuss the Adani group stock route and its impact on millions of small investors as well as the hard earned savings of crores of Indians being endangered in loss of value of investments of LIC.

Seeking suspension of business notice under Rule 267 for Thursday, Kharge said, “That this House do suspend Zero Hour and relevant rules relating to Question Hour and other businesses of the day to discuss the issue of investment by LIC, public sector banks and financial institutions in companies losing market value, endangering the hard-earned savings of crores of Indians.”

Giving a notice under Rule 267 (suspension of business) to discuss the Hindenburg report against the Adani Enterprises, Rao said “the report exposes the dangers to which the Indian people and economy are subjected to and merit immediate discussion, adjourning the other business”.

Adani crisis will “play out” in the market: Economic Affairs Secretary

The crisis around the Adani group will “play out” in the market and it is up to financial sector regulators to examine if a specific company has stuck to the rulebook, a top Finance Ministry official said on Thursday, hinting that there should be no impact on India’s credibility as a market.

Responding to a query on concerns about regulatory oversight in light of the recent crisis engulfing Adani group firms, Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth said that he would not comment on “this company’s transactions” and indicated that even for regulators, exercising oversight over each “economic actor” is not necessary unless there are systemic issues involved.

“The regulator needs to see -- are there any systemic issues? How is the overall sector behaving? Oversight doesn’t mean for each and every company…. Where is the capacity, and is it really needed for somebody to oversee each and every economic actor?” he told The Hindu.

“This will play out in the market. This is one company’s events and the regulator will have a look at it whether they have adhered to the norms of the market,” Seth said.

At the last meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council in September, where the Finance Ministry interacts with sectoral regulators, Seth had said that discussions did occur on whether regulators were “doing enough about systematically important institutions, are we nimble enough or do we have to look at any of our regulations afresh”.

“But that’s a continuous process,” he noted.

Giving an example, Seth said that a clutch of brokers using investors’ money “left and right” without impunity, would be considered a systemic issue. “It doesn’t get into a particular broker or company… The regulator does not get into that because it is not important from the overall systemic point of view,” he explained.

New tax regime ‘sweetened’ to benefit maximum number of taxpayers: CBDT Chairman 

The new income tax regime for filing returns has been “sweetened” in the Budget 2023-24 and it will be beneficial for maximum number of taxpayers as they can enjoy a “reduced” tax rate, CBDT Chairman Nitin Gupta said.

Speaking to PTI during a post-Budget interview, Gupta said the intent of the government while announcing the new slabs and rates under the new tax regime is to gradually “do away with deductions and exemptions” so that the “long-standing demand of reduction of taxes for individual taxpayers and entities can be met”.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Budget 2023-24 in the Parliament on Wednesday, said the government has made the new income tax regime more attractive for taxpayers and has thus brought about ‘substantial changes’ in its structure for the benefit of the middle class.

“This new regime for individuals was laid down two years ago (Budget of 2020-21) but probably the benefits were not percolating and now the government has re-tweaked the slabs, re-tweaked the number of slabs and rates and the benefit is now clearly visible, be it any taxpayer...,” the CBDT Chairman told the news agency.

He said a similar measure taken for the corporate category of taxpayers sometime back has been found to be beneficial for them. He did not reveal the number of individual taxpayers who opted for the new regime over the last two years.

“The new regime is really sweetened... the section of taxpayers who will not be benefiting will be a very miniscule section which is taking all sorts of benefits in terms of the interest in house property, the deductions under section VI A among others, and only those type of taxpayers could be impacted in terms of they would be better off in the old regime.”

“Barring that, the new regime would be beneficial to everyone,” Gupta said.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is the administrative body for the Income-tax department.

The CBDT chief said that the government went into various aspects of the new tax regime, bettered it and therefore in the latest Budget, a “parity” of sorts has been achieved between the two schemes.

“There are about 3.5 crore salaried taxpayers in India and every salaried taxpayer will be at par with the old regime if they opt for the new regime because standard deduction has been made available in the new regime... so in terms of parity it has been established.”

“With the reduced number of slabs and wider slabs, the benefit will be percolating to everyone now and the long-standing demand of reduction of taxes will be met,” he said.

Asked if the Finance Minister’s declaration that the new tax regime will be a “default” tax option will affect the users of old regime in any way, the CBDT Chairman said the taxpayers will have full independence to choose any one of the tax filing systems and none of them will be at any loss including the facility to reverting to the old scheme.

“The new regime is the default scheme in the sense that what will come up on the screen (on the e-filing portal) will be the new regime but the option is intact and the taxpayer can shift between the regimes...”

“There is no disincentive for any section of taxpayers and they can opt for the regime which they want to,” he said.

Gupta said an ‘online calculator’ will also be provided to the taxpayers, like before over the e-filing portal, to compare their tax liabilities under the two regimes.

SC rejects plea seeking to bar candidates from contesting elections from more than one seat

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to set aside a provision in the election law which allows candidates to contest polls from two constituencies simultaneously.

“This is a policy matter and an issue concerning political democracy. It is for the Parliament to take a call,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud observed.

The petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, represented by senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, had sought the court to declare Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act invalid and ultra vires.

“Like one-person-one-vote, one-candidate-one-constituency is the dictum of democracy… Section 33(7) of the Act allows a person to contest a general election or a group of by-elections or biennial elections from two constituencies,” the petitioner argued. But the court chose to leave the issue to the wisdom of the Parliament.

“This is a matter of legislative policy, since ultimately it is Parliament’s will to see if a country can be granted such a choice. Hence, absent any manifest arbitrariness in the said provision, we cannot strike it down,” the court noted. In 2018, the government had objected to the petition in court. It had argued that law cannot curtail the right of a candidate to contest elections and curtail the polity’s choice of candidates.

The government had further told the Supreme Court that one-candidate-one-constituency restriction would require a legislative amendment. It had supported Section 33 (7).

Before the amendment, candidates could contest from any number of constituencies. The government had said the restriction to two constituencies was reasonable enough, and there was no need to change the law now.

The Election Commission had, in an affidavit in 2018, supported the petition. It had informed the Supreme Court that it had proposed an amendment to Section 33(7) in July 2004. The poll body had pointed out that “there have been cases where a person contests election from two constituencies, and wins from both. In such a situation he vacates the seat in one of the two constituencies. The consequence is that a by-election would be required from one constituency involving avoidable expenditure on the conduct of that bye-election”.

The poll body concluded that the “law should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time”. The poll body had even suggested that a candidate should deposit an amount of ₹5 lakh for contesting in two constituencies in an Assembly election or ₹10 lakh in a general election. The amount would be used to cover the expenses for a by-election in the eventuality that he or she was victorious in both constituencies and had to relinquish one.

In Brief:

The government on Thursday said domestic airlines faced a total of 546 technical snags during operation of planes last year. Out of them, the country’s largest airline IndiGo faced 215 snags while SpiceJet saw 143 snags and Vistara had 97 snags. Air India faced 64 snags while those reported by Go First and Akasa Air stood at 7 and 6, respectively, according to data provided by the Civil Aviation Ministry in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. In 2022, Air Asia (India) witnessed 8 snags, Alliance Air reported 3 snags, Fly Big (1), TrueJet (1) and BlueDart Aviation (1). A total of 1,090 snags were faced by airlines in the last two years.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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