What to Expect From the Winter Session of Parliament

Here’s what to expect from the winter session of Parliament that begins on Thursday.

4 min read
Congress President Sonia Gandhi. (Photo: AP)

The Winter session of Parliament scheduled to begin on Thursday is set to be a stormy one. Opposition parties have prepared to target the government on issues including ‘intolerance’ even as the ruling dispensation expressed its readiness to discuss all issues.

The Opposition attack is set to gain momentum from next Monday when the government brings its legislative agenda to the table after a two-day special sitting to discuss the Constitution and its maker BR Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary.

All-Party Meet Before Stormy Parliament Session

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left), Congress President Sonia Gandhi (R).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left), Congress President Sonia Gandhi (R).

The government has called an all-party meeting on Wednesday. BJP parliamentary party executive and NDA constituents will meet later at the Prime Minister’s residence followed by an all-party meeting called by the Speaker.

NDA ministers discussed legislative proposals to be brought for consideration in the Houses of Parliament. This includes three Bills relating to the replacement of Ordinances, GST Bill, Real Estate Regulation Bill etc.

The ministers also discussed recent incidents like the Dadri killing, rationalist MM Kalburgi’s killing and others following which the intolerance debate began.

Meanwhile, parties like Congress, JDU and CPI(M) made their intent clear. They will be giving notices for debate on the issue of intolerance and plan to attack the government over the GST.

What is the GST Bill All About?

The Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill amends the Constitution to introduce the goods and services tax (GST).
  • Parliament and state legislatures will have concurrent powers to make laws on GST. Only the centre may levy an integrated GST (IGST) on the interstate supply of goods and services, and imports.
  • Alcohol for human consumption has been exempted from the purview of GST. GST will apply to five petroleum products at a later date.
  • The GST Council will recommend rates of tax, period of levy of additional tax, principles of supply, special provisions to certain states etc. The GST Council will consist of the Union Finance Minister, Union Minister of State for Revenue, and state Finance Ministers.
  • The Bill empowers the centre to impose an additional tax of up to 1%, on the interstate supply of goods for two years or more. This tax will accrue to states from where the supply originates.
  • Parliament may, by law, provide compensation to states for any loss of revenue from the introduction of GST, up to a five year period.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • An ideal GST regime intends to create a harmonised system of taxation by subsuming all indirect taxes under one tax. It seeks to address challenges with the current indirect tax regime by broadening the tax base, eliminating cascading of taxes, increasing compliance, and reducing economic distortions caused by interstate variations in taxes.
  • The provisions of this Bill do not fully conform to an ideal GST regime. Deferring the levy of GST on five petroleum products could lead to cascading of taxes.
  • The additional 1% tax levied on goods that are transported across states dilutes the objective of creating a harmonised national market for goods and services. Interstate trade of a good would be more expensive than intrastate trade, with the burden being borne by retail consumers. Further, cascading of taxes will continue.
  • The Bill permits the centre to levy and collect GST in the course of interstate trade and commerce. Instead, some experts have recommended a modified bank model for interstate transactions to ease tax compliance and administrative burden.

Government Strategy for the Session

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)

In Parliament, the government is likely to take the line that the Centre and BJP have nothing to do with the incidents that have led to the debate on intolerance and put the ball in the states’ court. Leaders are also expected to state that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already responded to the matters.

The view in the government is that there is no reason for it to be defensive in these matters but should be ready for a discussion if the Opposition insists.

On GST, however, the government’s woes are far from over.

Government has not done its homework on GST bill. It has not convened an all-party meeting, which it should have done to discuss the same. Government will be solely responsible if the bill is not cleared in the House as it has not done its homework.
Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI(M)

According to PRS Legislative Research, the Parliament will meet for the Winter Session between November 26th and December 23rd, 2015.

The legislative agenda includes 19 bills currently pending in Parliament for consideration and passage. 14 new Bills are proposed to be introduced out of which one will also be taken up for consideration and passing. Two bills will be withdrawn.

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