Amid boycott by the entire opposition, the state Assembly on Friday passed the State GST Bill after receiving the President’s assent for implementing the new tax regime with the condition that the Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir shall not be affected.
The Bill moved by finance minister Haseeb Drabu was passed by a voice vote as the opposition members walked out of the house before the minister sought its passing. Drabu said that the GST will be rolled out in J&K in the midnight today. The opposition members accused the PDP—BJP government of undermining the special status of the state by seeking a Presidential order on extending the GST in J&K.
The Assembly had on Wednesday passed by voice vote the resolution seeking implementation of GST in the state. Thereafter, the state cabinet gave concurrence to 101st amendment to facilitate roll out of GST and sent the recommendation to the President.
Drabu said it was not binding for the state government to place copy of the Presidential order on the table of the house but he was doing so to dispel speculations pertaining to erosion of the special status of the state.
The Presidential order specifically said “Notwithstanding anything contained in the order, the powers of the State of Jammu and Kashmir as per Section-5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, shall remain intact”.
The Presidential order also mentioned that “The legislature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall have powers to make laws with respect to Goods and Services Tax levied by the State”.
After passing the GST Bill, the Speaker, Kavinder Gupta, adjourned the house sine-die.
Noisy scenes were witnessed as soon as the house assembled and Drabu moved the Bill and tabled the Presidential order. Congress MLA Nawang Rigzin Jora accused the government of undermining the special status of J&K in the way the GST Bill and the Presidential order were handled. CPM MLA, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami accused the government of having taken the house for granted by not giving prior information to the members about the Presidential order and the GST Bill. Independent members Hakim Yasin and Engineer Rashid also walked out of the house with other opposition parties.
The core group of the National Conference (NC) had yesterday decided to boycott the remaining session of the legislature to protest against alleged dilution of the special status of the state by the PDP-BJP government.
Drabu had said on Wednesday that adequate safeguards for the State’s Special Status have been taken. Protecting the Consolidated Fund and special taxation powers of the State Government are proposed to be incorporated into the Presidential Order for bringing Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of the new tax regime. He said Article 370, which gives the state special status, shall not be compromised in any way. He said that under no circumstances would section 5 of the state constitution, which gives Jammu and Kashmir exclusive taxation powers, be eroded.
"We are proposing that the Article 370 shall not be compromised in any way through the Presidential Order. The GST Council should not be a way to subvert the process and enough safeguards are built to empower the constituents of J&K in the Council. Besides, the exclusive powers of the State to tax and the Consolidated Fund of J&K shall not be impaired," he said.