JK assembly passes GST bill amid Oppn walkout, will come into effect at midnight
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JK assembly passes GST bill amid Oppn walkout, will come into effect at midnight

While chief minister Mehbooba Mufti described it as an important milestone in the ‘state-Centre relationship’, finance minister Haseeb Drabu assured all assembly members that the state’s special status won’t be affected.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2017 18:57 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir,GST,Mehbooba Mufti
Policemen try to detain an anti-GST agitator in Srinagar. (Waseem Andrabi / HT photo)

The state assembly passed the Jammu and Kashmir Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in both the houses amid a walkout by Opposition parties on Friday. It will come into effect at midnight.

Though the GST was rolled out across India on July 1, its implementation was deferred in Jammu and Kashmir because people feared it would compromise the special status and fiscal autonomy of the state.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti hailed the efforts put in by finance minister Haseeb Drabu, who had moved the bill in both houses of the assembly. “This day will be remembered in golden words because we have found something we had lost,” she said.

The chief minister went on to describe the order as an important milestone in the constitutional relationship between the state and the Centre. “For the first time in the state’s history, the Centre sought the concurrence of the state government and the legislature before issuing a presidential order. Through the last 70 years, central laws were extended to the state in a clandestine manner – raising doubts in people’s minds,” she said.

The state assembly had earlier passed a resolution for adopting the GST despite resistance from Opposition parties National Conference and the Congress. Immediately afterwards, the state cabinet cleared a draft GST for the President’s concurrence.

A government spokesperson said Drabu gave a detailed account of the legislation in the assembly. All necessary safeguards to Section 5 of the J&K state constitution and those enshrined in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution have been incorporated in the presidential order, he added.

To defuse apprehensions in this regard among the members, the finance minister read out the contents of the presidential order before moving the bill for legislative assent. “The powers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as per Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir shall remain intact,” he quoted proviso-3 of the presidential order as saying.

Trade bodies as well as civil society entities had formed a coordination committee to oppose the new tax regime being imposed on the state. They claimed implementing the GST could compromise the fiscal autonomy and special status of the state under Article 370 of the Constitution.

The Opposition, for its part, believed extending the GST Act to Jammu and Kashmir would take away the state’s authority to draw taxation powers from its own constitution. “The legislature of Jammu and Kashmir shall have the powers to make laws with respect to the GST levied by the state,” Drabu read out from the presidential order in an attempt to dispel their fears.

The Jammu and Kashmir legislature will also have exclusive powers to make laws regarding the imposition of taxes enabled by Section 5 of the state constitution, he added.

The state finance minister observed how the Opposition had made a “huge issue out of a non-issue” by claiming that the state’s fiscal autonomy will be compromised – and its special status eroded – through GST implementation. “But the presidential order has respected the sanctity of the state legislature by safeguarding our constitutional, economic and administrative powers. The incorporation of constitutional safeguards upholds this government’s resolve to protect the special status of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Drabu said the financial and administrative safeguards promised by the government under the GST regime will come into being in due course of time.

First Published: Jul 07, 2017 18:50 IST