Time Running Out For GST Bill as Speaker Postpones Discussion to Next Week

After an attack by opposition legislators, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan today postponed the discussion and vote on the Goods and Services Tax bill till next week. This makes it difficult for the government to pass the crucial constitutional amendment bill in this session.

The budget session ends in one week  and with all the pending agenda, the government may run out of time.

Sources told NDTV the government may take up the bill in Lok Sabha on May 5, which will shorten time for the remaining key legislation for this session — the black money bill, the finance bill and the land bill. Sources said the finance bill could be moved on Thursday, which may enable the government to push through the land bill during the last two days of the Lok Sabha session.

The Speaker was forced to intervene today after she came under attack from opposition legislators when she allowed the government to bring the legislation before the conclusion of the financial agenda. Till April 29, discussions on the budget and grants were to be held.

Among those who attacked the Speaker were deputy speaker M Thambi Durai and the legislators of the Congress, which wants a parliamentary panel to examine the changes in the bill before it is discussed or put to vote. Mr Thambi Durai’s party, the AIADMK, and the BJD are supporting the Congress demand.

The bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Congress government in 2011, had lapsed and the Modi government had brought in a fresh version with certain changes.

The GST – which aims at replacing the country’s complex array of duties with a simpler tax regime – is keenly awaited by investors. A part of the reforms agenda, the government was counting on passing the bill in the budget session.

A Constitutional Amendment bill needs the concurrence of two-thirds of legislators in both houses. The NDA government with 336 seats in Lok Sabha falls short of two-thirds majority by 27 and will by require the support of some opposition parties to get the bill passed.  It does not have the numbers in Rajya Sabha.

It already has the consent of states, who are key stakeholders.

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