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GST rolls out past midnight from Central Hall of Parliament



New Delhi, July 1 : The Goods and Services Tax (GST), India’s biggest tax reform since Independence, rolled out past midnight Friday in the precincts of the hallowed Central Hall of Parliament to usher in a new indirect tax regime in an event that sought to evoke memories of the famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ night the country got freedom in 1947.

A minute after the stroke of midnight, President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed the button to launch the new indirect tax regime on a digital screen with “GST” emblazoned on it in a golden hue.

Conceived on the principle of ‘one nation, one tax, one market’, the tax that subsumes 17 central and state levies was launched in the presence of Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MPs, chief ministers, state finance ministers, officials of the Centre and states.

Notwithstanding the fact that the GST Law was a consensus product evolved over 14 years, the function in colorfully-decked Parliament House was boycotted by major opposition parties like Congress, Trinamool Congress, RJD, DMK and Left parties, saying the government was making a spectacle of a legislation for self-promotion, a charge Jaitley rejected. In keeping with his party’s decision, former Primer Minister Manmohan Singh kept away from the event. However, MPs and leaders of Congress allies NCP and Samajwadi Party attended the function.

Addressing the gathering, President Pranab Mukherjee said the introduction of GST is a moment of precedent for the country and a matter of personal satisfaction for him because of his role as Finance Minister earlier. “I had always believed that GST was a matter of time and was happy when it was enacted and I gave assent to the Constitution amendment last year,” he said.

He said the new law is a tribute to the maturity and wisdom of Indian democracy. The GST Council was a unique experiment under the Indian Constitution because of the shared sovereignty.

In his speech, Modi said the roll out of GST is the best example of cooperative federalism and success of Indian democracy. “The credit for the new law does not go to one party or one government but was a shared legacy of all,” he said.

In a veiled rejoinder to opposition criticism of the midnight function in Parliament, the Prime Minister said there cannot be a “better and sacred” venue than the Central Hall for the historic roll out.

The GST process cannot be confined to just economic system but was a collective effort of all, he said, adding it was a product of long discussions among the best brains of the country. “It is an example of Team India’s strength and ability,” he said.

Referring to the eminent personalities like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Babu Rajendra Prasad who had adorned the Central Hall, Modi said like Patel had integrated the country, the GST would integrate the country economically.

He described the GST as ‘Good and Simple Tax’ — good because there will be no tax on tax and simple because there will be only one form of tax. It will also help eliminate black money and corruption because of the transparency it seeks to bring in, he said.

Modi said whatever was lacking in growth and development of the country, GST will provide the opportunity to realise them.

Ahead of the launch, the GST Council slashed the rate of fertilisers from 12 per cent to 5 per cent and of exclusive parts of tractors from 28 per cent to 18 per cent to reduce the burden on farmers.

The launch of GST, which the government claimed would result in reduction of prices of articles of common consumption, also came amidst fears from various business sections that prices would go up under the new regime.

Welcoming the gathering, Jaitley described GST as the biggest and most ambitious tax reform which is an achievement of the country through consensus. It highlights the fact that India can rise above narrow politics and work for country’s benefit. In making the GST, neither the Centre nor the states gave up their sovereignty.

He said all MPs, state governments, political parties, state finance ministers and dedicated officials of the Centre and states deserved to be appreciated for realising the project of GST Law.

Jaitley said under GST, the revenues will go up as the compliance goes up and the GDP will also increase.

Parliament’s Central Hall has witnessed such a function only on three occasions earlier. First was on the occasion of Independence when first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made the famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech. The second was on the occasion of silver jubilee of Independence in 1972 and golden jubilee in 1997.

The GST is expected to check tax evasion and broaden tax base. In the new regime, all filings will be done only through electronic mode to ensure non-intrusive administration. This will minimise taxpayers’ physical interaction with the tax officials.

The GST regime seeks to reduce rates of over 50 per cent of items of daily use and charge others at much lower rate of 5 per cent, 12 per cent and 18 per cent.

A higher tax rate is imposed on luxury and sin goods at 28 per cent in the new regime. Certain services like telephone, banking and insurance are expected to feel the pinch of higher taxes.

The GST also promises taxpayers a refund against their sales within 60 days. Similarly, exporters will get refund within seven days. For protection of consumer rights, the new law provides anti-profiteering provisions. In a departure from the normal practice, the GST will be administered together by the Centre and the states.



MPs seating in galleries, RS gets ready for monsoon session

Naidu directed the officials to submit a detailed action plan by early next week, for this purpose.




Parliament of India

New Delhi, July 3 : The Rajya Sabha Secretariat is exploring seating members of the upper house in the house’s chamber as well as the galleries in conformity with the norm of physical distancing and to enable virtual participation of other members from either the Central Hall or Balayogi Auditorium in the Parliament premises for the monsoon session.

As the Lok Sabha Secretariat came out with new rules for reconvening parliamentary panel meetings, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu on Friday too held detailed discussions on various options for conducting the proceedings of the upper house during the ensuing Monsoon Session of the Parliament. The Secretary General and other senior officials of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat were present in the hour-long discussions.

However, virtual participation is considered to be limited, in view of the capacity constraints of NIC at present to enable such virtual participation of all MPs. But, Naidu said that there is a need to scale up capacities for larger virtual Parliament in due course.

The chamber and the galleries of the Rajya Sabha can accommodate 127 members while adhering to the physical distancing norms. Sources said that all the galleries, except the media gallery, would be utilised for seating the members. Seating of media persons in the media gallery would also be in conformity with the physical distancing norm for which guidelines would be framed.

“For enabling the viewing of participation of the members from outside the chamber of the House through virtual participation, it has been felt that screens need to be arranged both within the chamber of the House and outside as required,” sources said.

But given the limited seating capacity of 127 members in the chamber and the galleries of the House, Naidu asked the officials of the Secretariat to draw up appropriate plans for seating based on the strength of various parties in the House or any other effective criteria like preparing a list of the participants in the proceedings of the House for the day who would be accommodated accordingly.

But running a Parliament session during the time of pandemic is not easy as ensuring seating alone. Issues relating to taking up Question Hour, voting in the House if required, administering oath or affirmation to the newly-elected members, detailed planning for transportation of members, effective measures for physical distancing and sanitisation among other issues were discussed.

Naidu directed the officials to submit a detailed action plan by early next week, for this purpose.

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Why PM did not name China, again: Chidambaram

He said that the country wants to know if Modi named China as the intruder or not while talking to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.




P Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 3 : Former Union Minister P Chidambaram on Friday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not naming China as an “aggressor” while speaking in Leh during the day, wondering aloud if he had done otherwise in his telephonic talks with US and Russian presidents.

“For the third time in a week, the PM did not name China as the aggressor. Why? What is the purpose of talking about an unnamed ”enemy” to the people of India and the jawans in Ladakh?” the senior Congress leader tweeted.

He said that the country wants to know if Modi named China as the intruder or not while talking to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

The Congress leader also alleged government silence on satellite images “showing Chinese troops occupying key positions in places hitherto considered as undisputed Indian territory”.

“The PM has still not answered our questions about where the violent clashes took place on June 15 between Chinese and Indian troops and if the Chinese have intruded Indian territory at several points,” the former Union minister said.

Amid ongoing tension at borders with China in eastern Ladakh, Modi paid a visit to Leh and forward locations this morning to review the security situation on the ground.

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Accepted International Award In Italian Marines Case, End Proceedings, SC Told

On August 26, 2015, the apex court, in view of the pendency of the issue before ITLOS, stayed the proceedings pending before it and before any other court.




Supreme Court

New Delhi, July 3 : The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it has accepted the international tribunal award in the killing of two India fishermen by Italian marines and asked it to close the matter pending before it for eight years.

The tribunal ruled for the trial of marines in Italy, while holding India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of fishing vessel ”St. Antony”.

The Centre, in the application filed in the top court, said: “The applicant (Union of India) states and submits that the Republic of India has taken a decision to accept and abide by the Award passed by the Tribunal which would have the bearing on the continuance of present proceedings before this court.”

In March 2017, the apex court had passed an order where it directed the parties to place on record the award passed by the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Centre submitted that on August 24, 2015, the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS), on the request of Italy, rendered an order prescribing provisional measures, which stated that Italy and India shall both suspend all court proceedings.

On August 26, 2015, the apex court, in view of the pendency of the issue before ITLOS, stayed the proceedings pending before it and before any other court.

“The Tribunal upheld the conduct of Indian authorities with respect to the incident and highlighted the material and moral harm suffered by the Indian fishermen on board the St. Antony on 15 February 2012. It held that the actions of the Italian Marines breached India”s freedom and right of navigation under UNCLOS Article 87(1)(a) and 90,” said the Centre, citing salient features of the award.

However, the international tribunal found that the immunities enjoyed by the marines operate as an exception to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts and, hence, preclude India from exercising its jurisdiction over them.

It also rejected Italy’s claim to compensation for the detention of the marines.

“India being a party to the UNCLOS, in accordance with the provisions of the UNCLOS and the Rules of Procedure agreed by the Parties, the Award is final and without appeal and shall be complied with by the parties to the dispute (Article 11, Annex VII, UNCLOS)”, said the Centre”s application, placing the award on record before the apex court.

On February 15, 2012, two Indian fishermen aboard the Indian fishing vessel, St. Antony, were allegedly killed by two Italian marines aboard the Italian tanker ”Enrica Lexie” off the coast of Kerala. The Indian Navy intercepted the Italian tanker and detained the two marines, triggering an international conflict over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity. The two marines were released and returned to Italy after two and four years, respectively. The Arbitral Tribunal was tasked to resolve the conflict over jurisdiction.

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