New Delhi, Aug. 3 : Asserting that the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill was a great day for Indian democracy and federalism, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said it was important as all the political parties, except one, unanimously approved of its passage.
"Today is indeed a historic day for the reason that the Rajya Sabha in which the GST Bill had been held up for a very long time has cleared the Bill.
I think what is most important is as the voting itself showed that the Bill has been cleared unanimously.
So all members present at the time of voting have voted in favour of the Bill," Jaitley told the media here.
He said that as the debate on the Bill progressed, it was clear that amongst the political parties, there was a very large consensus.
"Except one political party, everybody else has supported this Bill.everybody has voted in favour of the Bill and almost every state government is on board in order to implement one of the most important taxations reforms in India itself," he added.
Jaitley asserted that the proceedings had culminated to demonstrate to the world that this was a great day both for Indian democracy and Indian federalism.
"In fact, Indian democracy and Indian federalism are at their very best in as much as all national political parties and regional parties.
All state governments have come together to usher a major taxation reform," he added. Jaitley, on behalf of the government, expressed his deep sense of gratitude to all the political parties which had actively participated in this discussion and support of the reform.
"The government's approach was also to build a larger consensus which we succeeded in doing. We now propose to take some of the additions and amendments which have been made to the Bill as approved by the Lok Sabha back to the Lok Sabha very soon subject to the directions of the Speaker, so that the Lok Sabha also can approve the Bill and can go to the states for ratification," he added.
Jaitley pointed out that once the GST is implemented, it would bring basic changes in the Indian tax structure.
"It will convert India into one unified market with one unified tax in the country. It will improve the bas of taxation. It will make evasion extremely difficult and I think the Centre and the state governments in future will have to work together in order to make this a great success," he added.
The Rajya Sabha earlier today passed the long-standing 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill commonly known as the GST Bill.
The legislation is aimed at bringing uniform tax regime in the country by subsuming state levies. Under it, a single rate of GST will replace Central Excise, State VAT, entertainment, entry and luxury taxes to ensure seamless transfer of goods and services.
Replying to over six hour long debate on the Bill, Jaitley said the government would try for the most reasonable rate for GST.
He said with GST, system would become more efficient and there would be no tax on tax and evasion would become more difficult.
He also dismissed the apprehension of members that the Centre would have veto power in the proposed GST Council, saying it would have only one third weightage in it.
Moving the Bill, Jaitley termed the legislation as one of the most significant tax reforms in the country's history.
He said the GST Bill would boost the economy, which is now in a critical stage and put in place a uniform market in the country.
Jaitley said the bill will enable a seamless country-wide transfer of goods besides empowering the Centre and the states to increase their revenues.
He said it would also bring down tax evasions and bring all transactions under the ambit of taxation. The Finance Minister said the GST would serve the interest of the federal system in the best possible manner.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, Congress leader P. Chidambaram demanded that the standard rate of GST should not exceed 18 percent as suggested by the Chief Economic Advisor.
He said his party would campaign across the country to garner support in favour of the standard rate. He said it is efficient, non-inflationary and not result in losses to the Centre and the state revenues and also be acceptable to people.
He warned that a rate higher than this would be inflationary, leading to tax evasion. Chidambaram also wanted a dispute resolution authority to take care of any possible disputes. He said the Congress wanted a capping of the GST rate in the bill itself so that it cannot be changed by executive whims.
Chidambaram urged the government to introduce GST and Integrated GST (IGST) bills as a Finance Bill and not as Money Bill for a proper discussion in both the Houses.
He said his party was never opposed to the idea of GST. He said in the earlier bill, there were too many flaws, and hence, the Congress did not support it. Chidambaram welcomed the government's decision of dropping the provision of one percent inter- state transaction tax in the bill.
Participating in the debate, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury urged the government to protect the right of states.
He said the tax rate of 24 percent would cripple most of the people of the country. On the issue of dispute redressal, Yechury said greater thought must be given to it and it must be spelt out more concretely.
He said the bills should be brought back as Finance Bill and not as a Money Bill..