Nation
Rajya Sabha shows rare camaraderie over GST
As the Goods and Services Tax Bill got the parliamentary nod to end a stalemate that lasted almost 10 years, the Rajya Sabha saw a rare camaraderie and unanimity when all members present voted in favour of the statute.
 
After the AIADMK walkout, the only party which opposed the bill, voting for The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014, and the amendments introduced by the government saw not a single vote against the proposed law.
 
Interestingly, the number of votes in the affirmative kept changing as Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien put the different clauses, and finally the bill, to vote, with some opposition members even raising concern as to how the numbers changed after lobbies were cleared.
 
The votes in affirmative ranged from 197 to 205, and not one in opposition, except for one clause when nine members from the ruling benches voted in negative, much to the amusement of opposition members. 
 
The members, however, soon after asked for chits to correct their mistake. 
 
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Minister of State for Commerce (Independent Charge) Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi rushed to instruct them on how to vote correctly.
 
When it was time for voting on the next clause, a voice from the opposition benches emerged saying "press the green button".
 
Clearing the lobby is a routine act before a division, or when voting on the bill is sought. After this, the gates of the house are shut, and all members are in their seats from where the voting buttons are used.
 
While Kurien clarified that the votes were subject to correction, he also joked: "There is a magician in the house."
 
An official from the Rajya Sabha later told IANS that some votes may not get recorded as some particular members may have stopped pressing the button before the voting time was over.
 
As per procedures, every member has to press a red button at their seat along with the yes/no/abstain button for 10 seconds. Vote is recorded only from the button which is pressed at the end of the 10 seconds.
 
A consensus had long been eluding the bill, which was first announced by the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in his budget speech for 2006-07.
 
Chidambaram, recently elected to the Rajya Sabha, started the debate on the bill on Wednesday, as members from the ruling and opposition parties noted that he was speaking from the opposition benches in the upper house for the first time.
 
The former minister also joked that it was his maiden speech, to which Kurien remarked he would still get only 15 minutes. Chidambaram's speech, however, lasted around half an hour.
 
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury even remarked that Chidambaram, his "old friend", sounded "much better from the other side".
 
The Congress leader, meanwhile, out of habit, even called the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as "leader of opposition", and was corrected by one of his colleagues.
 
Anticipating delay in the proceedings, the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry had arranged a dinner for the MPs, journalists and Parliament staff on the occasion.
 
However, as the debate reached its fag end around 7.30 p.m., members preferred to stay in the house. When the voting was finally over after 9.40 p.m., a remark was heard from members on how "hungry" they were.
 
After the bill's passage, Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar were seen walking to the opposition side, and shaking hands with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
 
As the upper house was adjourned, ruling and opposition party members could be seen walking out together, smiling for the media's cameras after the "historic moment" that leads to one of the biggest tax reforms in the country.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

 

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US Fed penalises Goldman Sachs for use of confidential supervisory information
The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday ordered Goldman Sachs to pay $36.3 million of civil money penalty for its unauthorised use and disclosure of confidential supervisory information.
 
The Fed was also seeking to impose a fine on a former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, Joseph Jiampietro, and permanently bar him from the banking industry for his and his subordinates' unauthorised use and disclosure of confidential supervisory information, said the Fed in a statement.
 
The Fed said that Goldman Sachs used the central bank's confidential supervisory information in presentations to its clients in order to solicit business.
 
The order required Goldman Sachs to implement an enhanced programme to ensure the proper use of confidential supervisory information, and prohibited the investment bank from re-employing individuals involved in the improper disclosure of such information.
 
In 2015, the Fed permanently barred a former Goldman Sachs employee from the banking industry following his guilty plea for the theft of confidential supervisory information.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

 

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India moves closer towards GST, bill gets Rajya Sabha nod
India moved a major step closer towards a unified goods and services tax regime across the country, with the upper house of Parliament passing the relevant Constitution amendment bill on Wednesday, in what is seen as the most radical indirect tax reform since independence.
 
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014 and amendments were first declared approved by a voice vote. Following a division called by Deputy Chairperson P.J. Kurien and electronic voting, it was declared approved by a two-thirds majority. 
 
While the AIADMK had walked out earier, 203 members present voted in favour of the main bill. 
 
The bill will now go again to the Lok Sabha for its nod since the government had moved some amendments to get political parties, notably the Congress, on board.
 
The passage on Wednesday was preceded by some heated debate, with the opposition demanding that subsequent bills on the subject be brought as financial bills, as opposed to money bills, so that the upper house gets a chance to debate and vote on them.
 
The government only assured that it will follow the spirit of the Constitution in this regard.
 
The new regime -- the idea for which was mooted some 13 years ago -- seeks to subsume all central indirect levies like excise duty, countervailing duty and service tax, as also state taxes such as value added tax, entry tax and luxury tax, to create a single, pan-India market.
 
Some items, notably potable alcohol and petroleum products, will be outside its purview for now.
 
"This is one of the most significant tax reforms in India's history. It was, therefore, important for building a political consensus to the extent possible," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, as he initiated the debate on the bill.
 
"The enactment of the GST Bill will bring abut the best economic management of the country as it will empower the states and increase revenue of states and the central government. It will give a boost to the economy at this critical stage," he added.
 
Following the passage by the Lok Sabha, at least 50 percent of the states will have to ratify it for it to become law. This apart, while the Centre will have have to take Parliament's nod again for its version of the GST, states too will need to do the same, which may not be a quick process. 
 
To reach a compromise, the government had to concede to two main demands of the Congress -- scrap the proposal to levy a 1 per cent additional duty so that states get compensated for at least two years and make the dispute resolution mechanism stronger and empowered.
 
But the third demand -- of specifying the GST rate in the bill itself was not acceded.
 
The Congress party, nonetheless, said this was a request that remained. "Today we may not put the rate in the Constitutional amendment bill but we will have to put it in the central bill," said P. Chidambaram, former Finance Minister and the main speaker for the Congress during the debate.
 
"The empowered committee is the one which arrived at a 15.5 per cent revenue neutral rate and came to the conclusion that 18 per cent should be the appropriate GST rate. The Congress did not suggest the 18 per cent rate -- 18 per cent came out of your report," he said in the Rajya Sabha.
 
His reference was to the committee currently chaired by West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra.
 
"If we charge 24-26 per cent, it will defeat the very purpose of GST. Services represent 57 per cent of India's GDP. It will be hugely inflationary. It'll lead to evasion," he said. "Take the case of soft drinks, whether a rich man buys it or poor man buys it, the tax is the same."
 
Jaitley said since the rate is scheduled to be decided by the GST Council, which will have the representation of all states and the central government, this matter should be left to it. "We must trust the responsibility of states towards the people," he said.
 
Even though the idea of a pan-India GST was first mooted in 2003, it was seven years later that a formal bill was first introduced. But this lapsed when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was voted out and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government took over.
 
In 2014, a recast bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 19, and was passed by it five months later on May 6, 2015. The bill was then referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for examination which submitted its Report on July 22, 2015. 
 
Following consultations, some amendments were moved and the bill sailed through in the upper house on Wednesday after nearly eight-hour debate. The final voting ended well past 9.30 p.m.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

 

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