Lok Sabha witnesses noisy scene over introduction of tax bill

Nirmala Sitharaman said the bill is related to tax returns filing and tax payments and that is only the intention of the government as tax filing is the Centre’s domain.

Lok Sabha on Friday witnessed noisy scenes when Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman sought to introduce a bill to give effect to various compliance relief measures for taxpayers, including extending time limits for filing returns and linking PAN with Aadhaar, leading to adjournment of the House multiple times.

The bill seeks to replace the Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020, promulgated in March.

While tabling The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020, Ms. Sitharaman said she had a feeling that those who spoke against the introduction of the legislation “definitely” misunderstood its contents.

She said the bill is related to tax returns filing and tax payments and that is only the intention of the government as tax filing is the Centre’s domain.

“It is only about tax payment, tax return and filing,” she said.

Referring to the GST shares of the states, Ms. Sitharaman said the central government would definitely pay the state governments’ share.

“We are not taking away the powers of the states. We are not running away from our responsibilities. We never said that we will not pay the states’ share. We will definitely pay the states’ share of the GST,” she said.

The Finance Minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a successful chief minister and knows about states’ problems and their requirements.

Ms. Sitharaman claimed that the opposition was trying to “distort” the facts on the government’s intention. She dismissed the opposition’s claim that the central government was violating the GST Council or bypassing it.

“We are not violating the GST Council or CGST Act,” she asserted.

The finance minister also said the Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme 2020 is not an amnesty scheme as it does not give benefits to the tax evaders.

“It is only related to dispute resolution. It is not proper to term it as amnesty scheme,” she said.

She then asked her junior colleague Anurag Thakur to speak about the PM Cares Fund, set up recently by the central government keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected.

The public charitable trust’s name is ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund)’

Mr. Thakur accused the opposition of finding faults in every issues.

The Union Minister of State for Finance said the opposition had said EVM was bad, triple talaq was bad, GST was bad and always saw bad in good initiatives of the government.

“What is wrong with the PM Cares Fund? Several times you went to the courts (against the PM Cares Fund). But courts did not support you and favoured the PM Care Fund. When the prime minister was fighting the coronavirus pandemic, some people went to court against the fund. Even the poorest of the poor have contributed to the PM Cares Fund. But the opposition keep asking questions. Even children, old, retired teachers have contributed to the PM Cares Fund,” he said.

Referring to the PM National Relief Fund, Mr. Thakur said the trust was set up during the tenure of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was not even registered as a public trust. But it got all relevant clearance, including FCRA, he said.

“The PM Cares Fund is a constitutionally set up public charitable trust. PM National Relief Fund was set up only for the benefits of one family — Nehru-Gandhi family,” he said.

With this, the Congress strongly protested Mr. Thakur’s remarks, leading to Speaker Om Birla adjourning the house for 30 minutes.

Congress leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari, TMC’s Saugata Roy and CPI-M’s AM Arif opposed the introduction of bill.

Mr. Tharoor questioned why the PM Cares Fund has been exempted from the audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and said the contribution to the fund from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was wrong.

Mr. Roy said it was a new concept for gathering funds by the PM’s office and demanded that the PM Cares Fund should be abolished and money received by it should be transferred to the PM National Relief Fund.

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