Parliament passes Finance Bill, Rajya Sabha amendments rejected
New Delhi: The Finance Bill 2017 was passed by Parliament on Thursday with the Lok Sabha rejecting the amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha.
The Bill, being a Money Bill, will now go to the President for approval before becoming law.
Since the Lok Sabha did not accept any of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha, the Money Bill is deemed passed by both houses in the form in which it was passed by the lower house.
Replying to a short debate on the amendments in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “I can’t accept five amendments suggested by Rajya Sabha to the Finance bill.”
As per the provisions of Article 109 of the Constitution, the Rajya Sabha has limited powers with respect to draft legislations that are tagged by the government as Money Bills. The Lok Sabha is free to either accept or reject all or any of its recommendations.
Embarrassing the government, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday suggested five amendments to the Finance Bill 2017 and returned it to the Lok Sabha.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
The upper house discussed the bill for over five hours spread across two days with the Congress and other opposition parties taking exception to several provisions of the Finance Bill, stating that the government had sought to amend 40 laws in one go.
During discussion on the Bill, the opposition accused the government of “smuggling in” provisions to bypass the Rajya Sabha as the upper house has limited powers on Money Bills.
Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda raised the issue of the amendment that gives Income Tax officers right to search a premise without citing a reason.
On the electoral funding reforms brought by the government, Hooda said electoral bonds will only increase opacity in funding.
He also said reducing limit for anonymous donation to Rs 2,000 will not make much difference, and only increase the work for chartered accountants.
Congress member Kabil Sibal said that some provisions in the Finance Bill 2017 tend to weaken the federal structure of the country, allowing the government to snoop on citizens and instilling fear among the business community.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury strongly objected to the provision in the bill about use of Aadhaar for filing Income Tax returns (ITR).
“Why are you saying today that Aadhaar is required for me to file my ITR? Why do I have my PAN card at all then?” he asked, adding that if the government wants to make Aadhaar compulsory, it should bring a straightforward bill saying as much.
Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidmabaram said that if “Pentagon can be hacked, how will you (government) protect hacking of Income Tax and bank accounts through Aadhaar?”
The opposition members also expressed concern over the “removal of cap” on corporate funding of political parties in the name of electoral reforms.
Members also raised concerns over the winding up or merging of several tribunals and the government “single-handedly appointing chairpersons of tribunals deciding business disputes”.