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GST rolls out past midnight from Central Hall of Parliament

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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.

IANS

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Jammu and Kashmir: 3 killed in Pulwama Encounter

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Pulwama, April 24: Three persons, including two security personnel and a militant, were killed in an encounter in Lam village of Jammu and Kashmir’s Tral on Tuesday.

“The security personnel killed included an Indian Army soldier and a state policeman” news agency IANS reported citing police sources.

A joint operation was launched by the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), state police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Lam forest area of Tral following information about the presence of terrorists.

Sepoy Ajay Kumar of 42 RR, who was injured in the initial firing exchange, succumbed to his injuries at Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Badami Bagh Cantonment area here.

Latif Gujar of Jammu and Kashmir Police also succumbed to injuries, while the only militant killed in the gun battle has not been identified so far.

Reports claimed two-to-three militants were engaged in the gunfight with the security forces in the densely forested area.

The encounter comes a day after Pakistan Army violated ceasefire at Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district.

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Govt stays action against Maharashtra BJP MLC’s firm alleged tax evasion, human trafficking

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New Delhi, April 24: The central government has stayed Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) order denying security clearance to aviation services company promoted by a Maharashtra BJP MLC and his wife for its alleged involvement in tax evasion and human trafficking.

According to The Indian Express report, the order was passed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to BCAS (its own security wing) on April 4, which had denied clearance to Lad’s firm in connection with alleged involvement in evasion of tax and human trafficking.

The report claimed that Aviation Ministry’s order was signed by Under Secretary Staish Chander. The BCAS had alleged that Krystal Aviation Services Pvt Ltd had created ‘ghost employees’ to evade taxes. The BCAS said that the employees were shown in the payrolls of associate forms and cited a security report that accused Krystal Aviation Services of sending people to Dubai for jobs.

On April 9, the Maharashtra BJP MLC approached the Ministry seeking an intervention in the matter.

Following this, the Ministry of Civil Aviation on April 18 put a stay on the BCAS’s order and directed it to give a personal hearing to Lad’s company.

Besides, the Ministry asked its security wing to obtain a detailed report from the central security agencies and deliver a final order within two months.

As per BCAS order, their verdict was on the basis of central security agency’s findings that had carried out the background check of Lad’s firm.

“The central security agency had in its report dated 09/02/2018 mentioned that Lad’s aviation company had recruited people and sent them to Dubai for jobs in security, housekeeping and maintenance activities. It also raised fears that documents collected by Krystal Aviation Services for sending people abroad are being misused, particularly to create ghost employees to evade taxes. The group, it said, is involved in human trafficking”, the India Express reported citing BCAS order.

The BCAS further stated that since the central security agency’s report is ‘seriously adverse in nature’, it can be seen as allegations levelled against Krystal Aviation Services Pvt Ltd.

Apart from Kyrstal Aviation Service, Lad has six more companies, which include: Krystal Integrated Services Pvt Ltd, Krystal Techno-Engineering Services Pvt Ltd, Krystal Family Holdings Pvt Ltd, Ayushmati Infra Tech Pvt Ltd and Shoubham Cine Vision Pvt Ltd, Krystal Gourmet Pvt Ltd, Flame Facilities Pvt Ltd and Singapore-based Krystal Global Pte. Ltd.

The Indian Express report also said that Krystal Aviation Services was given security clearance by BCAS from 2010 to 2015. At present, it is involved in providing ground handling services to firms across five international airports in India.

In an interview to the daily, Lad described the charges levelled against him as ‘baseless and rubbish’. He stated that “the BCAS has not shown any single complaint against his companies. “So far, there is not a single complaint or FIR against any of my companies”.

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Supreme Court adjourns hearing in Tarun Tejpal rape case

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Tarun Tejpal

New Delhi, April 24: The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing in connection with a rape case involving former Tehelka magazine editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal.

The apex court fixed May 9 for next hearing.

Earlier, on April 9, the court had refused to stay proceedings pending against Tejpal.

The court was hearing Tejpal’s petition seeking suppressing of rape and other charges levelled against him.

In 2013, a female employee accused Tejpal of sexually assaulting her inside the elevator of a five-star hotel in coastal state Goa.

Tejpal has been charged under section 354-A (sexual harassment), 354-B (assault or use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe), 341 and 342 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 376 (punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

He was also framed with the allegation of rape and was held in November 2013. He was later released on a bail after six months of imprisonment.

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