Oppn attacks govt for opening doors to political extortionism

Oppn attacks govt for opening doors to political extortionism
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.

"A complete opacity has been created... These measures will benefit shell companies... It is opening the doors for political extortion," Hooda said, adding that the government should have brought a separate bill for transparency in political funding.

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.

The government had yesterday faced a major embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha as five amendments moved by the Congress and the CPI(M) to the Finance Bill were adopted and approved by the House.

The amendments proposed to delete the provisions relating to the powers given to taxmen like power to requisition books of account, power to survey and more powers to more officers.

The Rajya Sabha approved that there should be a cap of 7.5 per cent of net profit of the last three financial years for donation to political parties. It also approved provision to disclose the name of political parties to which contribution has been made by a company.

Roy said during the discussion on the Finance Bill in the House, he had suggested that a separate law should be brought to introduce electoral bonds as the proposal has been included in the "so-called omnibus Finance Bill". The TMC MP said the Rajya Sabha has approved deletion of Clause 51 of Section 132a of the Income Tax Act -- which deals with powers to taxmen for requisition of books of accounts.

"It is a direct assault on the right of individual".

Hooda said there was a need for "checks and balances" on taxmen and they should put on file the objective for conducting survey, search and raid, otherwise there would be no accountability. Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) sought to know since when was there a provision in the Income Tax Act, 1961, that the person whose House is being searched, or raided is disclosed the reason.

Kirit Somaiya (BJP) said that through an amendment, the Government has sought to ensure the security of the whistleblower who tips off taxmen with information.


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