SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution for implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the state. The resolution was moved by finance minister Haseeb Drabu for “application of relevant amendments made to the Constitution of India in a modified manner to safeguard the existing special constitutional position of J&K in the Union of India and legislative powers under the constitution of J&K.”
Before the resolution was adopted, opposition members of the National Conference, Congress and independent legislators made speeches in which they asked the government to not compromise the state’s powers of levying and collecting taxes granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. NC legislators Devender Rana, Shafi Uri and Ali Mohammad Sagar said that they were not against the GST but wanted the state’s autonomy to remain intact.
Drabu responded to the Opposition’s queries by saying that 260 Articles of the Indian Constitution out of the total 395 had already been extended to Jammu and Kashmir, of which 135 were identical. He said the residual powers of the state ceased to exist in 1986 by a Presidential Order.
Against this argument, Uri said that the 1986 Presidential Order was recommended by the then governor Jag Mohan, not by the NC government. Drabu stood up from his bench and said, “Just three months later you formed the government with Congress.” Uri responded, “NC took the matter of illegally extending the Presidential Order to the Supreme Court of India. Till today, the great Supreme Court has not given a decision in the case.”
While Uri was still making his arguments, Sagar stood up and said in anger, “Drabu sahab, you want to molest the state’s special position, then go and do it.”
Drabu responded, “Despite safeguards, if any violation takes place, I will not come to this House again. The GST has moved India’s idea of coercive federalism to cooperative federalism. Sovereignty has been pooled.”
Drabu said that the state had never made its own service tax law, despite having the power to do so. Article 370, he said, should be used for constructive purposes and not for defensive positions only. He accused the NC of not showing any way of how the state’s position could have been protected.
When opposition members asked him to spell out the safeguards, Drabu said, “Under no circumstance will section 5 of the JK Constitution be diluted. Article 370 shall not be compromised in any way. The state’s representative in the GST Council shall have special powers. All exemptions, remissions and subsidies across sectors will remain intact.”
The GST was adopted across India except in Jammu and Kashmir on July 1.
Now that the resolution has been adopted, the JK cabinet will approve the draft and send it to the President of India for approval. The President will issue an order and then the GST will begin to be implemented in the state. It remains to be seen what the contents of the Presidential Order will be.