LS approves Finance Bill, rejects RS amendments
Parliament on Thursday approved the Finance Bill 2017 after the Lok Sabha rejected five amendments moved to it by the Upper House with regard to curbing more powers to taxmen and a cap on donation by companies to political parties.
Winding up the debate on amendments passed by the Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said they cannot be accepted by the government, but invited suggestions from political parties, including the Congress and the BJD, to make electoral funding more clean and transparent.
The Lok Sabha later rejected the Rajya Sabha amendments by a voice vote, thus passing the Finance Bill 2017 and completing the budgetary exercise for 2017-18.
Jaitley said most of the donations that come to political parties now are from unclean money and there was complete non- transparency.
Defending the budget proposal, he said it is not possible for the Government to accept the amendment as it would limit the number of donors to political parties.
"The harsh reality is we continue to do politics on the basis of undeclared money, because if we do it on the basis of declared money... somebody will write an editorial and will have a problem with every solution we offer," Jaitley said.
"Today we have given the option of receiving donations by cheque — there is total transparency, it is clean money.
Small donations by cash less than Rs 2,000. You can receive donations online too. And do it by bonds which is clean money," he said.
With regard to the taxation amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha, he said the current position will continue and the government as a matter of "abundant caution" and to protect whistle-blowers, the bill has specified that the "satisfaction note" will not be given to the target of investigation.
Since 1961, he said there is no example that the target of investigation was revealed the satisfaction note which forms the basis of investigation with regard to tax evasion.
The Opposition in the Lok Sabha on Thursday accused the Government of running roughshod by opening the doors to "political extortionism" and passing "draconian" provisions in the Finance Bill.
The Opposition criticism came as the Lower House took up Finance Bill 2017 to consider the five amendments carried out by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
After Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the amended Finance Bill for consideration by the Lok Sabha, Deepender Hooda (Cong) said this was a "historic" occasion as never in the past had the Rajya Sabha amended the Finance Bill.
Initiating the discussion, Hooda said the Government was amending 40 laws through the Finance Bill and has brought all these amendments before the House as a Money Bill in which the Upper House has not much say.
"The process of change in electoral funding has nothing to do with the Consolidated Fund of India," Hooda said, observing that the Finance Minister through these amendments has made the Rajya Sabha "incidental".
The Government without cleansing the system of political funding is trying to push it under the carpet, he said.
Saugata Roy (TMC) said the powers given to taxmen under the Finance Bill 2017 were "draconian" and went against the rights of individuals.
He said in a bicameral set-up, there are checks and balances. "The procedures of House is being violated and the Finance Bill is being made a compendium... Just because they have a majority in the House, they should not run a roughshod," Roy said.