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GST Council Reduces Rates for 66 items



Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, June 11 : The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council at its 16th meeting here on Sunday revised the rates of 66 items out of the 133 for which representations had been received seeking change from the fitments originally made in the four-slab indirect tax structure, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. Industry hailed the GST Council’s latest decisions as beneficial, particularly for small and medium enterprises.

Following the 15th meeting of the council here earlier this month, held to decide on the six remaining items — including gold and beedi — from the Srinagar meeting which had decided upon 1,211 items, Jaitley had said that a committee of officers would examine rate adjustments, if any, based on the representations received from different trade and industry associations. Their recommendations were taken up by the council on Sunday.

“The 133 representations received were considered at length and the officers’ committee made their recommendations… the council has reduced tax in 66 out of the 133 cases,” Jaitley, who heads the council, told reporters here following the meeting.

The Minister explained that the cases for reduction had been considered keeping two objectives in mind.

“One was to maintain equivalence to the existing taxes, and in some other cases the fitment had breached this equivalence principle. In others, the reduction is required because of the changing nature of the economy and changes that have occurred in consumer preference,” he said.

Elaborating on some of the reductions, Jaitley said the tax on cashew has been cut from 12 to 5 per cent. Packaged foods like food and vegetable products such as pickles, chutnies, ketchup and instant food mixes, among others, which historically were taxed at 18 per cent, are going to be taxed at 12 per cent as these are items used by common people, he said.

Tax on cutlery will come down from 18 to 12 per cent, while computer printers will be lowered from 28 to 18 per cent. Insulin and agarbatti will go down from 12 to 5 per cent.

Among other goods, Jaitley said school bags have been lowered from 28 to 18 per cent, while exercise books will come down from 18 to 12 per cent.

All goods and services under the pan-India GST regime, which will subsume the existing multiple central and state levies, have been categorised in four tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent, besides those items that attract zero tax.

On Entertainment Tax, Jaitley said that following representations from the film industry, the GST Council has decided on a two-slab structure for cinema tickets, whereby those costing less than Rs 100 would be taxed less at 18 per cent, while those above will attract tax of 28 per cent.

In order to encourage job work outsourcing in sectors like diamond, leather, textiles, jewellery and printing, where workers take the work home, the GST rate has been reduced to 5 per cent.

Besides, traders, manufacturers and restaurants with turnover of up to Rs 75 lakh can avail themselves of the composition scheme, against Rs 50 lakh earlier, Jaitley said.

He also said that lottery tickets and e-way bill are two specific issues that will be taken up at the next meeting of the council here on June 18.

While BJP-ruled states gave a go ahead to July 1 roll-out of the GST, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra continued to raise serious doubts over the feasibility of the new indirect tax regime and proposed its postponement by a month or so.

“I have also added a caveat (in the GST Council meeting) that July 1 looks extremely difficult. But you cannot do frugal innovation for world’s largest fiscal reform called GST. And you are going to start GST from July 1. So my submission was, let us not do frugal innovation for something which is world’s largest fiscal reform,” Mitra told reporters after the meeting here.

He said that there is no harm in postponement of the GST “by one month or so”.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reiterated that the traders and industry had no option but to get ready by July 1 as no postponement was on the anvil.

“Irrespective of the date at which is to start, some people will say we are not ready. They have no option but to get ready. You require honest intent for that,” he told reporters when asked about some industry representatives seeking more time for the roll-out.

Industry and stakeholders on Sunday hailed the GST Council’s move of bringing traders, manufacturers and restaurants below Rs 75 lakh turnover under the Composition Scheme saying that it will boost small and medium enterprises in the country.

“This is a big decision in favour of traders. Its a people -centric decision, will benefit for the common people. The biggest win is for SMEs today. Biggest development for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and small businesses that contribute on a large scale to the GDP and job sector of the country,” the West Bengal Finance Minister said.

“The purpose of GST is to protect SMEs, protect states’ revenues and benefit people. By stimulating SMEs, which are labour intensive, taxes will go up, impact on GDP will go up and if implemented in appropriate manner, it can lead to greater revenues,” Mitra said.

Traders who have below Rs 75 lakh turnover will have to pay 1 per cent tax, manufacturers will have to pay 2 per cent while restaurant businesses will have to pay 5 per cent if they opt to go for the Composition Scheme under GST.

Pratik Jain, Partner and Leader Indirect Tax, PwC, said: “Increasing the composition scheme limit to Rs 75 lakh from Rs 50 lakh will provide relief to many more small businesses, though service providers (except restaurants) continue to remain outside the ambit of composition levy.”

Mahesh Jaising, Partner, Indirect Tax, BMR and Associates LLP said: “The GST Council has decided to increase the threshold of the composition scheme. This should mean that a significant number of SME sector players should benefit from not having to meet with detailed compliances under GST and also having a less financial burden, on account of GST.”


SSC paper leak: Supreme court rejects plea seeking court-monitored probe




New Delhi, March 20: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking a court-monitored probe into an alleged Staff Selection Commission (SSC) paper leak case.

The petition was filed by lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, who had demanded an investigation into the leak of question paper.

The exam was slated to be held from February 17 to 21.

On March 14, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) lodged a preliminary inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the matter.

In February, the SSC had issued a notice, stating that the exam held on February 21 was delayed due to ‘technical reasons’ and would be re-conducted on March 9, 2018.


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CBI moves Delhi HC over 2G spectrum acquittal




New Delhi, March 20: The CBI on Tuesday moved an appeal in the Delhi High Court challenging a special court order acquitting former Telecom Minister A. Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in the 2G spectrum money laundering scam case.

The central agency’s move comes a day after the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing financial irregularities in the case and assisting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), filed an appeal against the special court’s December 21, 2017, judgement in the case.

The CBI questioned the special court’s verdict ignoring the findings of the Supreme Court that has been keeping a regular tab on the investigation until the chargesheet was filed in the case.

The agency said it appealed to the High Court as the evidence adduced to substantiate the charges by the prosecution was not appreciated in its proper perspective by the special court.

The court also failed on the point in which the crime is defined under Section 2(1)(u), which considers only the criminal activity instead of commission of an offence, the CBI said.

While announcing the judgement, special judge O.P. Saini said the CBI and the ED had failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the charges against 33 persons named in the case.

The matter is believed to have contributed to the Congress-led UPA’s electoral loss in 2014.

Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the special court had acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka of STPL, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, film producer Karim Morani, and P. Amirtham and Sharad Kumar of Kalaignar TV.

Former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R.K. Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) — Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair — were also acquitted in the case by the special court.

The ED, in its chargesheet, had alleged that Rs 2 billion was paid by Swan Telecom (P) Ltd (STPL) promoters to the DMK-run Kalaignar TV.

The CBI had alleged that there was a loss of Rs 309.84 billion to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the top court on February 2, 2012.

The special court, which was set up on March 14, 2011 for hearing 2G cases exclusively, had also acquitted Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia and six others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.

The first case, prosecuted by the CBI, had 17 accused, while the second matter, pursued by the ED, had 19 undertrials. The third one had eight accused, including Essar promoters.


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Sushma should have informed us first: Kin of 39 Indians



New Delhi March 20: Families of 39 missing Indians in Iraq on Tuesday mourned the death of their loved ones after the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed the news in the Rajya Sabha.

Amritsar resident Gurpinder Kaur, the sister of Manjinder Singh who was among 39 Indians, told news agency ANI, “For past four years, Swaraj was telling me that they were alive. I don’t know what to believe. I am waiting to speak with her. We heard her statement that she made in the Parliament.”

Jalandhar native Manjeet Kaur’s husband Davinder Singh was also dead in Iraq. She was not able to digest the news as she also believed the government, which refused to confirm that her husband was not alive.

“My husband went to Iraq in 2011 and I spoke to him last on June 15, 2014. We were always told us that they (39 Indians) were alive,” Kaur told ANI, adding that “we don’t demand anything from the government”.

Puroshottam Tiwari, uncle of Vidya Bhushan Tiwari, who was also among deceased Indians, could not express his feelings.

“I don’t know what to say. Since 2014, I had been pleading with the government to bring him back somehow and today they say that he is no more,” he told ANI in Siwan, Bihar.

Forty Indians – from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal – went missing in June 2014 after Mosul fell to the Islamic State. In 2015, one of them, Harjit Masih, managed to flee from the clutches of Islamic State and said all other Indians were killed.

However, then Swaraj did not believe him and said firmly said in the Parliament that she would not declare the 39 Indians dead without concrete proof or evidence.

Meanwhile, the lone survivor Harjit Masih he has been telling about the killing of 39 others to the government for the last three years.


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