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Govt faces embarrassment in RS as 5 Oppn amendments to Finance Bill adopted

Of the five opposition amendments, three were moved by the Congress member Digvijaya Singh and two by Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M).

india Updated: Mar 29, 2017 23:14 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Rajya Sabha,Finance Bill,Arun Jaitley
Of the five opposition amendments moved in the Rajya Sabha, three were moved by the Congress member Digvijaya Singh and two by Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M).(PTI)

The Rajya Sabha passed the finance bill on Wednesday with five amendments moved by the Opposition, including the controversial provisions related to search and seizure powers of income tax officers and introducing the element of anonymity on company donations to political parties.

The bill was returned to the Lok Sabha with the amendments recommended by the Upper House. Being a money bill, the Rajya Sabha can only recommend changes to the bill, which the Lok Sabha can reject.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh moved amendments to Sections 132, 132(A) and 133 of the Income Tax Act that gives unbridled power to income tax officials of the rank of assistant commissioner to carry out search and seizure without divulging the reason to the assessee.

Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) moved amendments to two clauses of the Companies Act related to corporate funding to political parties. The bill allows corporate houses donating money to political parties to remain anonymous.

The five amendments were adopted with a large margin, with the difference ranging between 27 and 34 votes. The NDA has 74 members in the 245-member Upper House, where the government doesn’t have a majority. Except for Trinamool Congress members who staged a walk out and AIADMK that did not vote, the entire opposition voted.

Responding to the opposition charges that the amendments to the IT Act will allow tax authorities to conduct raid without divulging the reason to the assessee and without the sanction from higher authority, finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “Under Section 132, a satisfaction note prepared by tax officials will have to be submitted to carry out search. This was always the law. …the satisfaction note is never made available to the target of investigation but if the court wants, it can be given to the court.” He said the provision is aimed at protecting whistleblowers.

On Opposition’s charges that clause 154 that proposes amendment to Companies Act to remove cap on company donations has been done to help the ruling party, Jaitley said the truth is to the contrary. He said the move will ensure that clean money gets into the political system.

On the merger of tribunals, the minister said: “Bodies (tribunals) are lying vacant because alternative modes of earning from arbitration, etc is far more attractive. Public service is not attractive.”

On making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and a slew of other schemes, Jaitley said, “…it is necessary to check frauds and tax evasion”.

To Chidambaram’s query on how the government will protect hacking of income tax and bank accounts through Aadhaar when even Pentagon has been hacked, Jaitley replied, “I think Pentagon got hacked without Aadhaar being there. So hacking can take place even if Aadhaar is not involved. If technology can be breached, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use technology.”

First Published: Mar 29, 2017 19:39 IST