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GST being delayed for ‘collateral reasons': Jaitley

Arun Jaitley addressing media

New Delhi : Indicating that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill may not go through in the current session of Parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the Bill was being delayed for “collateral reasons”.

However, the Minister added that the government will push for other reform bills in the Rajya Sabha in the remaining three days of the Winter Session, which ends on Wednesday.

The bills include amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, a legislation to set up commercial courts and bankruptcy code.

Addressing the annual general meeting of industry chamber Ficci, Jaitley said, “I have no doubt in my mind that attempt to delay (GST) is entirely for collateral reasons. And the only collateral reason I suspect is if I couldn’t do it, then why should somebody else do it?”

Politics should not become a hurdle to larger interest of the country, he said, adding that it would not be possible for the government to accept Congress party’s demand of prescribing GST tariff in the Constitution itself.

“A delayed GST is better than a flawed GST,” he said. The GST Bill is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling NDA government does not have a majority as well as stiff opposition by the Congress.

The government had planned to roll out GST from April 1, 2016.

The Bill, which is being touted as the biggest reform in indirect taxation since Independence, is unlikely to be taken in the remaining three days of the Winter Session.

The Lok Sabha has already passed the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill and Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill.

These are likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha next week.

Regretting that some people get sadistic pleasure in seeing India slowing down, Jaitley said, “but then it’s a sadistic pleasure at a very severe national cost. We cannot allow that.

“There is no point saying that ‘GST is good and we brought in the GST proposal, but’, I think this ‘but’ is a terrible phrase as far as Indian politics is concerned.”

The biggest challenge at the moment is to get the Indian politics to support the economic reforms in the midst of the global slowdown, he said, adding that the endeavour should be to overcome political obstacles coming in the way of growth.

“Is the Indian politics going to be a support in this adverse global situation, to add the extra per cent or two to our current level of GDP or is it going to be an obstacle?” Jaitley said.

The Minister added that he would “still urge and persuade them (Opposition) to give up their rigidity on Constitutionally prescribed tariffs (for GST).

“Constitution prescribed tariffs actually can be an albatross around the neck of the future generation. And we owe it to them not to create situations of this kind.”

Jaitley further said “we have three days of Parliament left. (They) are extremely crucial and I am going to try and push some of these (reforms).

“These are important pieces of reforms which we are going to try and I hope nobody tries to hurt the country’s interest by again invoking the word ‘but’.”

Referring to the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, which will go to the Rajya Sabha for approval, the Minister said “in terms of ease of doing business, India has almost ceased to be a centre for dispute adjudication and arbitration and we have to bring it back.

“The Arbitration Act, which provides for a fast-track mechanism with a single member and an outer time period of 6 months to compete adjudication, was passed by Lok Sabha and will come up in these 3 days before the Parliament.”

Regarding the Commercial Disputes Resolution Bill, he said it seeks to expedite resolution of such disputes which remain pending in courts for years and decades.

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