An influential group of citizens from Kashmir under the banner of 'Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)' today termed the government proposal to extend 101st Constitutional Amendment for the introduction of GST in the state a "lethal assault" on its autonomy.
The group comprising M Shafi Pandith, former Chairman JK Public Service Commission; G R Sufi, former Chief Information Commissioner; Hasnain Masoodi, former Judge J&K High Court; Prof Abdul Waheed Qureshi, former Vice Chancellor Kashmir University and Founder Vice Chancellor Central University Kashmir; Fayaz Kaloo, Editor-in-Chief Greater Kashmir; Prof Nusrat Andrabi, former Principal Government College Nawakadal, and Prof Nisar Ali, noted economist, cautioned the government not to forcibly push the proposed "anti-autonomy measure" down the throat of the people, whom they are "supposed to represent."
In a statement issued here today, the group said the proposal to bring Jammu and Kashmir within the sweep of GST by extending the 101st Constitutional Amendment to the state, would be a lethal assault on the autonomy enjoyed by the state under the constitutional mechanism, governing its relationship with India.
"The legislative and executive power of the State extends to all the subjects, not within competence of the Indian Parliament. The residuary powers, in case of Jammu and Kashmir, unlike other States of the Union, are vested in the State," it said. "Jammu and Kashmir State, under Section 5 of the Constitution of the State, has exclusive power to decide on sales tax as well as service tax. With the introduction of GST, the State shall not only surrender its power to tailor its own tax policy in tune with the socio-economic requirements, but, unlike other states, also surrender its power to decide on service tax.
"The extension of 101st Constitutional amendment shall deprive the State of its political as well as fiscal autonomy as the power to impose or levy tax, determine the rate of tax or grant exemptions, available to the State, shall devolve on the GST Council to be constituted in terms of the amendment, with effective veto power to the Central Government.
"The State, once stripped of its power to decide on the imposition of tax – an important component of its sovereignty, shall lose, whatever is left of its autonomy," the group said.
The GCC said the encroachment on autonomy "cannot be justified on the basis of anticipated monetary benefits to the State. There can be no trade off between autonomy or special status and monetary benefits.
"The State Government is making efforts, in vain, to justify the application of GST, by extending assurances that the proposed step would not impinge upon the special status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir."
The group impressed upon the Jammu and Kashmir Government "not to rush through the matter and forcibly push the proposed anti-autonomy measure down the throat of the people, whom they are supposed to represent."
"We demand that proposed legislation, which the state government refers to in this regard, be made public and brought in the public domain so that there is frank, fair and thorough discussion on all aspects of the matter.
"Given the far reaching consequences of the proposed anti-autonomy measure, we are of considered view that a discussion within four walls of assembly would not suffice and a large scale discussion at all levels is an imperative.
"We also call upon all sections of society – lawyers, academics, political thinkers and social planners to debate the matter and articulate their opinion so that a decision by consensus is taken on this issue of critical importance, which is bound to affect future generations," the group said.