Article 370 used as obstruction, says Drabu

Finance minister Haseeb Drabu said on Wednesday that J&K’s special position and Section 5 of its Constitution would be protected under the Goods and Services Tax regime.
Article 370 used as obstruction, says Drabu
Photo: Mubashir Khan/GK

Finance minister Haseeb Drabu said on Wednesday that J&K's special position and Section 5 of its Constitution would be protected under the Goods and Services Tax regime.

Speaking in the Assembly during discussion on the controversial tax law, Drabu said the state's special position won't be compromised. "We are proposing that Article 370 shall not be compromised in any way through the Presidential Order. The GST Council should not be a way to subvert the process and enough safeguards are built to empower J&K in it," he said.

"If any violation takes place on Section 5 of the Constitution of J&K or state's special position, I will not come back to this House," he claimed.

He said the government of India "cannot change" its Constitution to meet J&K's requirement.

"My friend Sajjad Lone often says Kashmir is part of the world and world is not part of Kashmir. I want to build on it. J&K has acceded to India and India has not acceded to J&K. Let us be clear that we cannot expect government of India to change its Constitution to meet our requirements," he said.

The finance minister said Article 370 has been "used as an obstruction."

The Article 370 is very good, he said, but quickly asked: "Are we using it constructively?" 

"I think we have been using it as an obstruction. We should use it constructively for development of J&K," he said.

On implementation of GST, he said the government is not under any pressure to extend it to Jammu and Kashmir. "We are not under any compulsion but for restoration of certain processes and constitutional morality which lays foundation of a true democracy. We wanted a consensus on the issue," he said.

On Opposition's demand of separate GST for J&K, Drabu said the suggestion is "impracticable".

"It has never happened anywhere that a Union Government delegates powers to a provincial government and then gets collection fee for that. It is unheard of," he said.

He said the state government has not accepted a report prepared by a committee in 2013 on the GST.

The committee headed by then Advocate General M I Qadri proposed a tax regime similar to European model to provide J&K an alternate GST for protecting its special position.

"It is unsigned report. It has not been accepted by the government," Drabu said.

Accusing opposition of "deceiving" people on GST, Drabu said the National Conference aligned with Congress in 1986 three months after it (Congress) encroached powers of the State.

Drabu said J&K has failed to leverage Section 5 of its Constitution.

"We have failed to enact our own law on Service Tax in the past 60 years. We are levying Service Tax under General Sales Tax by notifying the services as deemed goods," he said, adding that "out of 97 entries in Union list, 94 are applicable to J&K."

Drabu also assured the House that tax exemptions and incentives would be protected under the new tax regime.

"Let us not go into figures about tax exemptions. I assure you that tax exemptions would continue in the new set-up," he said.

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