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'Government is bulldozing legislations' - Deccan Herald
'Government is bulldozing legislations'
Shemin Joy, April 9, 2017, DHNS
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N K Premachandran
Why is there so much criticism?
Changes to the Income Tax Act have triggered fear about taxmen knocking at your door anytime. The route taken by the government, via the Finance Bill, has evoked severe criticism. Revolutionary Socialist Party MP N K Premachandran, who was at the forefront of the opposition to the government’s move, spoke to Shemin Joy of DH.

Excerpts:


Our major opposition was about the way in which the Bill was introduced. There were amendments to so many legislations, including the I-T Act, Companies Act and Representation of People (RP) Act among others. These are three very important legislations in which drastic and cardinal amendments were proposed. These would have never become part of the Finance Bill.

The government does not have any authority to move such amendments through this way, but unfortunately, using the brutal majority in the Lok Sabha, they are bulldozing. Anything which is connected to the imposition or remission of taxes or any other financial matter, incidental or consequential to financial as well as taxation, that will come under the purview of the Finance Bill.

But my point is that here it was a backdoor legislation. The RP Act and the Companies Act were amended. My major objection to the Companies Act was on the ceiling limit for political funding by corporates - 7.5% of the average profits of the last three years.

Now that has gone. The government is always talking of transparency and accountability. The prime minister is speaking about fighting black money and corruption. See what has happened now.

As per another existing provision, details of funding have to be provided to the Income Tax Department. But the new amendments have done away with this. Now, you have unlimited political funding and there is no need to provide details about the money donated and to whom. This is against the slogan of public transparency and accountability. Instead of bringing an independent legislation, the government is amending everything through the Finance Bill. This is not right.

One of the main concerns is about the powers given to tax officers. What do you think?
Absolutely. It is a concern. The I-T Act is amended to give power to lower officials to conduct searches, raids and seizure. Earlier, these were under the control of senior officials. The Assistant Commissioner is now empowered to do so. If you are making Assistant Commissioner of a local area entitled to carry out searches, inspection and seizures, then it will definitely be misused. It also leads to more corruption. The government is decentralising corruption to the grassroot level.

Retrospective clause and non-disclosure are other themes that are being raised by the critics. What is your position?
Unbridled power is being given to officers and that too at the lower level. The officers who conduct searches need not give reasons to the authorities concerned, like Appellate Tribunals. You can’t go for a stay.

Isn’t it a violation of rights?
It is violation of the principles of natural justice. If my house is being searched, at least I should know the reason. The right to defence is lost. And it is being given retrospective effect from October 1, 1975. I believe, it is to save some officers for their past actions. This has to be examined.

What do you think is the government’s intention?
I don’t think it is reforms. If the intentions were bona fide, the government could have come up with a proper, independent legislation. Why are they not bringing a standalone legislation? Then the merits and demerits can be discussed by standing committees, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. They want to avoid discussions.

One should remember that the original Finance Bill was placed on February 1. This bill comes up for passage in the Lok Sabha on March 21. That day, the bill was taken up for consideration at 2 pm. Just three minutes earlier, a cluster of amendments were circulated, which is bigger than that of the original bill. My question is, if you want to amend around 40 legislations which were passed in the past seven decades, why didn’t you circulate it early?

(Full text of the interview is available on www.deccanherald.com)

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