Arrest clause in GST may be misused, says Mamata Banerjee
Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which rules West Bengal, is the first among a string of opposition parties to announce it would boycott a much-publicised Friday midnight function in Parliament.india Updated: Jun 30, 2017 19:49 IST
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee ratcheted up her opposition to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on Friday, alleging the new system is an epic blunder as an arrest clause in the rules could be misused to hound businesses.
Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which rules West Bengal, is the first among a string of opposition parties to announce it would boycott a much-publicised Friday midnight function in Parliament to roll out one of India’s most ambitious reforms.
“I am shocked to find that the GST rules contain a rather draconian arrest clause which can lead to major harassment of business, particularly the small and medium, with some sections even being non-bailable too,” she wrote on her Facebook wall.
Banerjee dovetailed the arrest rule with her accusation that the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre promotes vendetta politics against anyone opposing it.
“Given the atmosphere in the country of vindictively targeting anyone who dares to disagree with the Central Government, I am deeply concerned that the arrest clause in GST may well be used to target business leaders who raise their voice of dissent on any policy matter or any practices,” she remarked.
The chief minister pointed out that VAT rules, which the GST will override, don’t allow field officials of the state government to arrest anybody. They have to file an FIR, if they feel a person has committed a serious tax offence, she wrote.
She said West Bengal opposed the arrest clause at GST Council meetings, but the Centre overruled the state’s protests.
“The mockery of Inspector Raj is back... But in the case of GST, the Inspectors will have the power to arrest on 4 different types of offences which can lead to jail from 1 year up to 5 years,” she said.
The GST will replace about 20 central and state taxes such as factory-gate duties, service and local taxes while unifying Asia’s third-largest economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market.
But opposition parties, small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs, traders, weavers and informal-sector workers have protested against the new system over various issues, including the tax rates.
“At the stroke of midnight on 14th August, 1947, India won her freedom. Now, at the midnight of 30th June, 2017, freedom and democracy stand to face grave danger,” Banerjee commented.