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Consensus eludes GST, nod to six other bills

In an attempt to end the stalemate in Parliament, an all-party meeting convened by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari on Friday afternoon failed to bring a consensus on the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, but members of the Upper House decided to pass six other pending bills in the remaining period of three days of the Winter Session.

After the hour-long deliberations, Ansari said the meeting was “good.” The current session concludes on December 23 and the government along with the Opposition during the meeting agreed to pass a number of bills. They are — SC ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, the Appropriation Bills, the Anti-Hijacking Bill, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, the Commercial Courts Ordinance Bill and the Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Bill during the next week, sources said.

Meanwhile, with the Delhi high court refusing to stay the juvenile convict’s release in the Nirbhaya case, the Juvenile Justice Bill that allows juveniles in the 16-18 years age group accused of heinous crimes to be tried under the adult justice system has been sent to a select committee for review.

During the meeting it was also decided that discussions on matters of public importance like price rise, impact of flood and drought on agriculture, intolerance and a discussion on the developments in Arunachal Pradesh will also be taken up during the last three days.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said: “All political parties attended a meeting called by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, and agreed to let the House function from Monday and get down to what they are supposed to do — pass Bills.”

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “Nothing new was discussed at this meeting apart from what was discussed earlier at the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting.” He further added: “There was no discussion on GST. The discussion was on some bills on which there is a general consensus. Everybody is aware that there is no consensus on GST. Not only Congress has some reservations but other parties also,” Azad said when asked whether any decision on GST was taken in the meeting.

The GST bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha, must be passed by the Rajya Sabha by December 23 and then sent to the states for passage to enable the GST regime to be rolled out by April 1, 2016. 

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, added: “There has been a very meaningful discussion in the meeting. A number of parties have expressed concern over Parliament not functioning. All of them decided that the House should function. It has been decided to pass the pending government bills even by sitting late.”
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