National Conference on Saturday said that the apprehensions and concerns expressed by the party and other stakeholders about the implementation of the GST regime in the State had not been addressed at all in the recently issued Presidential Order.
Addressing a Press Conference in the presence of Party President Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Senior National Conference Leader and Former Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather said that by virtue of the Presidential Order the Centre has been given vast powers to make laws on the sales of goods and services in the State which hitherto was the sole domain of the State Legislature.
"The Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) has been fully extended to the State as envisaged in the newly added Article 246A of the Constitution of India," said Rather, according to a statement, issued by the party.
"As such, Article 370 of the Constitution of India and Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir have been diluted and virtually reduced to husks."
Rather said that the Article 279A has also been applied to the State in toto.
"Needless to mention, the GST Council has sweeping powers as envisaged in Article 279A which include the powers to make recommendations to the Union and the States regarding the goods and services that may be subjected to, or exempted from, the Goods and Services Tax; to fix rates including floor rates with bands of Goods and Services Tax; to set the threshold limit of turnover below which goods and services may be exempted from the Goods and Services Tax; to prepare model Goods and Services Tax Laws and power to make recommendation on any other matter relating to the Goods and Services Tax as the Council may decide," said Rather.
"Through this Presidential Order, the GST Council has retained these sweeping powers in respect of Jammu and Kashmir also – as is the case with other States of the Country."
"The PDP is giving much hype to the provision in the Presidential Order which mentions that the powers of the State of Jammu and Kashmir as per Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir shall remain intact. While the Presidential Order has robbed Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir of its content and substance viz-a-viz the exclusive domain of the State Legislature to tax goods and services within the State, a mere rhetorical certification of its continuance is a glaring contradiction and is aimed at fooling the people of the State," said the National Conference leader.
He said that the opponents of Fiscal Autonomy and Special Position, available to the State of Jammu and Kashmir under the Constitution of India, have been celebrating since the vague, ambiguous and obnoxious resolution was passed in the J&K Legislature.
"Although the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the J&K Legislature specifically restrain the Speaker from allowing any resolution in the Assembly which is vague and ambiguous, yet the Speaker chose to allow it in total disregard of the parliamentary rules and conventions," he said.
"The State BJP President has publicly expressed his party's happiness over their sense of ideological victory by saying the extension of GST regime to the State was a 'beginning of the process of complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union of India', as widely reported by the media. This has exposed the hollow claims of the ruling PDP-BJP dispensation that the extension of GST regime to J&K State was purely a taxation matter and had nothing to do with the politics and the identity of the State."
Rather said it had been a consistent stand of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference that extension of GST to J&K at the cost of the State's Fiscal Autonomy and Special Status would not be acceptable – as was made abundantly clear by the party's representatives in every single All Party and Consultative Group's meetings held on this issue.
"I also clearly and unambiguously took this stand in the meetings of the Empowered Committee on State Finance Ministers of India – both as a member as also its Chairman, as is evidently conveyed by the minutes of the committee held at Bhubaneshwar on 28th and 29th of January, 2013 and at Shillong on 18th and 19th of November, 2013 which among other things state – 'Hon'ble Finance & Ladakh Affairs Minister, Jammu and Kashmir and Chairman, Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers mentioned that the Special Constitutional Status of Jammu and Kashmir has to be protected under all circumstances, which was unanimously agreed by the Committee' and also that '..we cannot afford to tamper with the Special Position enjoyed by a politically sensitive State like Jammu and Kashmir under the Constitution.
"This important aspect should not be lost sight of while implementing GST in the State' (sic)", the Former Finance Minister and Senior NC Leader added while quoting the official minutes of the meeting of the Empowered Committee of the State Finance Ministers of India held at Shillong, Meghalaya on the 18th and 19th of November, 2013. "In these two meetings the alternative GST model was also discussed at length nullifying the claims of the ruling dispensation that an alternative GST model does not exist at all and was not shared with the empowered committee", he added.
Responding to a question raised that the Financial Integration of the State with the Union had taken place long back in the year 1956, as claimed by the State Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, Rather said if that was the case then there would have been no need to extend Article 246A and Article 279A of the Constitution of India to the State of Jammu and Kashmir through the recently issued Presidential Order.
"It is very unfortunate that the State's Chief Minister as also her Finance Minister are deliberately and intentionally concealing the material facts about the GST and its adverse impact on the State's Special Position. Our future generations will not forgive them for this deceitful and questionable collaboration in facilitating the erosion of J&K's Autonomy", Rather added.