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‘Special parliament session only after consensus on GST’

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New Delhi: The Union government will convene a special session of parliament to pass the goods and services tax (GST) bill – a constitutional amendment – only after a consensus is achieved among all political parties, including the Congress and the Left that are vociferously opposing the measure, official sources said.

Photo credit: youtube.com
Photo credit: youtube.com

The GST bill intends to create a harmonised system of taxation by subsuming all indirect taxes under one tax.

Government negotiators have reached out to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, but the outcome is not encouraging as Rahul Gandhi is still adamant on not supporting the bill till the party’s demands are met and changes accordingly made in the bill.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi are talking to all political parties to reach a consensus on GST.

According to government sources, most of the parties are in favour of GST but the Congress and Left parties are still adamant on their stand. However, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) have conveyed to the government that they will support the bill only after a broader consensus on the issue.

The SP has 15 and TMC has 12 members in Rajya Sabha, where the Congress has 68 members and the NDA 63, including the BJP’s 44. The government requires the support of at least 163 members of the 245-member house to pass a constitution amendment bill.

“There is a group in Congress party which is arrogant and whose imprudence on GST has created confusion. But we are still confident. In coming days, the bill will be passed,” Naqvi told IANS.

“Congress was also committed to GST and their only demand was that the bill be referred to a select committee which was met. The select committee has now submitted its report. The Congress should fulfill its commitment,” he added.

Despite the government’s confidence, it has few options for passing the bill.

A constitution amendment bill can be introduced in either house of parliament and has to be passed by each house by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting.

“GST is a constitution amendment bill. There is no provision for bringing a constitutional amendment through an ordinance or a joint sitting of the house. It must be passed by both houses of parliament. There is no other way to pass a constitution amendment bill,” constitution expert and former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash Kashyap told IANS

To explore the possibility of passing the GST bill, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs had decided against immediate proroging of the houses when parliament’s monsoon session was adjourned sine die Aug 13.

The sources said the decision to reconvene the monsoon session would depend on the progress the government makes in getting the support of opposition parties on the GST Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The task before the government is to pass the bill in Rajya Sabha where it lacks majority.

The GST, Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014 was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 19, 2014, which passed it on May 6, 2015. It was referred to a select committee of Rajya Sabha on May 14, 2015.

The bill was introduced in the upper house on the penultimate day of the monsoon session after the select committee of presented its report.

Since certain changess are expected in the bill that the Lok Sabha passed, the bill will have to be again passed by the lower house once it clears the Rajya Sabha.

Naqvi said that the government definitely lacked numbers in Rajya Sabha, but as far as the GST is concerned, the numbers are positively in its favour. The government is talking to all the stakeholders with a positive mindset so that the new tax regime can be rolled out from its current deadline of April 1, 2016, the current deadline, added Naqvi.

Once it clears parliament, the bill will have to be ratified by 17 state assemblies before it is sent to the president for his assent.

Naqvi also took a dig at Rahul Gandhi for Congress party’s opposition to GST.

“Somebody’s aggression should not stall the progress of the country. Trying to throw a spanner in the country’s growth story is not aggression. It will boomerang on those people who are trying to stall the progress of the country,” Naqvi said, without naming Rahul Gandhi.

Parliament and state legislatures will have concurrent powers to make laws on GST but only the centre may levy an integrated GST (IGST) on the interstate supply of goods and services and imports.

(IANS)

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)