Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday called the government’s constitutional amendment bill on the Goods and Services Tax a “clumsy draft”, to which his successor Arun Jaitley said the draft’s language was same as used by B.N. Rau, who had aided B.R. Ambedkar in drafting the Constitution.
Chidambaram called the bill draft “clumsy” while referring to the third amendment in the government’s list which read — “amount apportioned to a State under clause 1 should not go to the Consolidated Fund”.
Chidambaram argued it should have mentioned where the fund would go.
Jaitley replied: “Chidambaram mentioned that the bill has a clumsy drafting because it says that some of the revenue collected will not be a part of the Consolidated Fund of India or the Consolidated Fund of the state and the argument was that every revenue has to go into the Consolidated Fund.
“The response is that I think using the word clumsy drafting is a bit too extreme and expression. I think the best draftsperson India ever had was B.N. Rau, who aided Dr. Ambedkar. The phrase you have called clumsy drafting is verbatim the Article 268 (2) of original Constitution.”
He then read out from the Constitution: “The proceeds of any financial year of any such duty leviable in any state shall not forma a part of the Consolidated Fund of India but shall be assigned to that state”, adding that similar language was used in Article 269 (2).
Chidambaram replied: “I certainly do not claim to be as wise or as clever as late B.N. Rau. It doesn’t stop there; it says shall not form part of the Consolidated Fund of India but shall be assigned to that state.”
“All I am pointing out is that when you say in your amendment number three that such amount shall not form part of the Consolidated Fund of India you should have added what happens to the money; it has to go somewhere,” the Congress leader said.
Jaitley dubbed it “hair splitting” and said: “If you go back to the sub-clause 1, it clearly says ‘shall be apportioned in the union and states in the manner provided’ and then it further says in 1 (A) that ‘this amount apportioned to a state should not be part of the Consolidated Fund’, so it exactly says what you wanted to say.”
While the issue was settled, Chidambaram led the Congress later in asking the government to assure that it will not bring the next two bills on central and state GST as money bills.
Jaitley, however, said he cannot make a promise on a bill that was not even drafted yet.
With the opposition pressing for an assurance, Jaitley said: “We have no intention of getting the bill passed without discussions with you. This house will always have an opportunity to discuss the bills.”
With the constitutional amendment bill passed, the government will now bring a central GST bill and an inter-state GST bill in Parliament, while the states will pass their own GST bills.