The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Friday passed the state goods and services tax bill 2017 amidst opposition boycott, making it the last state of the country to join the new tax regime.
The bill entitled the Jammu and Kashmir Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 moved by Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu was adopted by a voice vote as all opposition members decided to boycott the proceedings, accusing the government of undermining the special status of the state by seeking a presidential order for extending the GST regime.
Drabu said the GST regime will roll out in the state at midnight on Friday, making Jammu and Kashmir the last state to join the new tax regime.
Before moving the bill for consideration and passing by the state assembly, Drabu read out the contents of the presidential order pertaining to the special status of the state and its exclusive taxation powers.
President Pranab Mukherjee gave his nod on Friday to an order pertaining to implementation of the GST regime in the state, clearing decks for the assembly for enacting the law.
Official sources said that the President cleared the order and sent it to Ministry of Home Affairs for further action.
Reading out excerpts from it, Drabu said, “Although there is no tradition of tabling a presidential order in the assembly, we are starting a new tradition in the democracy of the state by tabling this presidential order in the House.
‘Notwithstanding anything contained in this order, the powers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as per Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, shall remain intact,’ he said.
‘The legislature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir shall have the powers to make laws with respect to goods and services tax levied by the state,’ Drabu read from the excerpts of the order pertaining to the special status and exclusive taxation powers of the state.
The legislature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir shall have exclusive powers to make laws in respect of imposition of any taxes enabled by section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
Notwithstanding anything contained in clause 4 to clause 11 for the purpose of any decision impinging on constitutional provisions relating to the state of Jammu nand Kashmir, the concurrence of the representative of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be mandatory and the procedure provided under Article 370 shall be followed, the presidential order reads.
It adds that nothing in this article shall affect in any manner whatsoever the legislative competence of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as guaranteed by virtue of Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.
After completing the other legislative business listed for the day, Speaker Kavinder Gupta adjourned the House sine die.
The People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party government in Jammu and Kashmir had passed a resolution on Wednesday in the assembly after which the state cabinet under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti cleared a draft order for concurrence of the President.
This was the first time in the history of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly that a resolution, seeking a presidential order on a constitutional amendment, was discussed and passed.
Opposition boycotts proceedings
Meanwhile, the entire Opposition boycotted the proceedings, accusing the government of using subterfuge to undermine the Constitution of the state.
As soon as the House assembled, Communist Party of India-Marxist MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said the government had violated the etiquette of the Assembly by bringing in the Jammu and Kashmir GST Bill 2017 before informing the House about the presidential order passed for extending the GST regime to the state.
Nawang Rigzin Jora of Congress accused the government of undermining the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir in the way the GST legislation and the presidential order was handled.
The government is resorting to subterfuge to undermine the special constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir, Jora charged before leading his party MLAs to boycott the rest of the proceedings of the session.
Tarigami and People’s Democratic Front chairman Hakim Mohammad Yasin also staged a walkout from the proceedings after recording their protest.
The entire opposition benches became empty when independent lawmaker from Langate Sheikh Abdul Rashid also walked out of the House just before the GST bill was moved.
Members from principal opposition party, National Conference, did not attend the House as they had on Thursday announced their decision to boycott the proceedings for the rest of the session.
The core group decided that the NC legislators will boycott the remaining part of the legislative session as a protest against the government's ‘machinations to trample the aspirations of the people by demolishing the state's special status’, a party spokesman said.
He said the ‘anti-people’ resolution is an unequivocal compromise with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
IMAGE: Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu addressing the house during the Special Session of Legislative Assembly to pass Goods and Services Tax bill, in Srinagar. Photograph: PTI Photo