‘Roll back GST and Presidential order’
‘Declare the state a free economic zone’
‘By the order, State Constitution has been defiled’
‘Own GST could have possible as done with Panchayat Law’
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee (JKCC), amalgam of valley traders and the civil society on Wednesday demanded that withdrawal of the Presidential Order on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and roll back of the GST law which was recently passed by the state’s Legislative Assembly.
They also said that the state should be declared as a free economic zone.
The members of JKCC have warned the government that if their demands are not met within a week’s time, they will intensify their agitation at all levels.
The members said that at the top government levels they were promised that a tax law in synchronization with the central GST law would be brought in.
Also before presenting it in the Assembly, the government would take their inputs too.
“At all the government levels, including that of the Chief Minister, Finance Minister, Chairman Consultative Committee, the trade organizations/associations were promised of rolling out a tax law that synchronized with the central GST law without eroding our special position,” JKCC said in a statement.
The statement further added, “Besides, that the draft of such a proposed GST law would have been shared with them for comments before its presentation in the Legislative assembly. However, to our dismay, this promise was not kept and instead a resolution was directly presented before the Legislative assembly on 3rd of July, 2017.”
JKCC pointed out that once the Presidential Order came, the state government let loose its propaganda machinery to proclaim victory as, according to them, they had been successful in safeguarding the state’s special status.
Traders, however, believe that the state government ended up ‘collaborating’ with the Government of India in order to extend GST in the state.
While analyzing the presidential order it was found that the state government, by its false propaganda, had not only hoodwinked people of the state but also their own legislators. The suggestion of the trade bodies to make separate GST law for the state which could synchronized with the union law had been consigned to the dust bin,” members said in the statement.
They further added, “The state government had only ended up in collaborating with the central government to extend the same law to the state that was otherwise extended by the union government to every other state in India.”
The statement stressed that consecutive governments have acted as collaborators by concurring to 46 amendments to the state in a deceitful manner.
“This (GST) is the 47th deceit inflicted upon the people of J&K and is the last nail in the coffin of financial autonomy,” JKCC said.
“Unfortunately in dealing with the state, the union has phenomenally mastered the art of using the power as bait to see the state fully integrated into the union of India in contravention to the guarantees and promises made to its people. By concurring to the 47 amendment, the present dispensation has not acted differently and has surrendered its powers of levying and collecting tax on goods and services to the union of India,” members noted in the statement.
JKCC, after consultations with constitutional experts, have come to the conclusion that the state’s legislature is no more supreme and it can only levy local taxes.
“The Jammu & Kashmir constitution is no more supreme. That is why President has issued the aforesaid order modifying Article 246 and incorporating Article 246-A. If state legislature was itself sovereign, then there would have been no necessity of amending article 246 and incorporating article 246-A,” the statement pointed out.
JKCC believes that the Legislature is no more the supreme body as all the power now rests with the GST council.
“It has no sovereignty. It can only impose a local tax within the J&K state like tax on agriculture or urban immovable property, etc. like the taxes in other Indian states municipalities are empowered to impose. The goods and service tax council alone has the power to make recommendations regarding the goods. In other words the state legislature is crippled and itself without recommendation of the council cannot exempt any one from goods and service tax,” JKCC observed.
Traders and the civil society also asked that how section 5 of the state’s constitution has been protected when the constitution has itself been ‘defiled’.
“It is a constitutional deceit. This order amounts to defiling the state Constitution. When you donate the power to Parliament of making laws on goods and services, you are taking away the power of the state legislature. The power of the state is shrinking. It means sovereignty is shrinking, autonomy is shrinking. Now the question is- how have we protected the Section 5?,” JKCC questioned.
The statement further added that when state could bring in their own Panchayat Law, the same could have been done with GST.
“When the Government says it is intact (section 5), how is it so after surrendering powers over goods and services to the Parliament? It is a cosmetic statement to mislead people. Despite the 73rd and 74th> amendments of the Indian constitution in relation with Panchayati Raj, the state did not implement it. They enacted their own Panchayat law. Similarly, the government could have done the same with the GST,” the statement pointed out.
They also reiterated that the traders are not against any kind of tax or reforms. However, traders are also consumers.
“No trader is against any tax or tax reforms. A trader is a tax collector for the government and he collects it from the consumers to fill its coffers. A trader at one place may be a trader but at hundred other places is himself a consumer. So to create a divide between the “trader” and the “consumer” will not be successful and is far-fetched and misconceived,” JKCC said.
They added, “Permit us to say that all consumers may not be traders but all traders are consumers. The Government is making unsuccessful attempts to malign the image of traders with an aim to create a wedge amongst themselves besides attempts are also afoot to mislead consumers.”