House adopts GST resolution as Drabu says Article 370 being used as an obstruction

‘Will not return to this house if Article 370 compromised’

‘Kashmir has acceded to India, India didn’t accede to Kashmir’

‘To bring separate GST, Section 5 will have to be amended’

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly adopted the resolution to pass the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill with a voice vote in the state on Wednesday with ‘assurances’ from Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu that the state’s consolidate fund and taxation powers will be safeguarded.

Drabu said that in ‘no way will Article 370 be compromised’ through this financial order, however, he added that the article is being used as an obstruction rather than a tool for empowerment.

The Finance Minister on the floor of the house stressed that he will not come back to the house if GST violates the special status of the state.

“If GST violates the special status of the state or the section 5 of the JK’s constitution, I will not come back to this house. We have been using this article 370 only as an obstruction. We have to use it constructively. This doesn’t have to be a defensive tool,” Drabu said.

He added, “We have to be clear that it is J&K that has acceded to India, and India has not acceded to J&K. We can’t ask them to change their constitution to meet our requirement.”

However he again maintained that under no circumstances would Article 370 be compromised by the presidential order.

“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 the constituents of J&K in the Council. Besides, the exclusive powers of the State to tax and the Consolidated Fund of J&K shall not be impaired,” Drabu said.

The opposition while referring to the all party meeting held on the issue said that the government at that time said that they can wait for ‘6 months’ but now they can’t even wait for six days. They questioned the government that under ‘whose’ pressure do they want to pass the GST.

The Finance Minister replied that the pressure was that the ‘traders, consumers of the state cannot live without GST.’

He further added, “We are not working under compulsion but for the restoration of certain processes and constitutional morality which lays the foundation of a true democracy. It is the biggest tragedy of our times that we have lost our tradition of dialogue which is why we brought the resolution of GST to the House to revive that culture of consultation. We wanted a consensus on the issue.”

Drabu also said that he didn’t hear a single voice in the house in last two days who ‘oppose’ the GST per se.

He pointed out that the differences are there but with modalities of the applicability of the law.

“The sense of the House is that no one has issues with GST per se. There might be differences with modalities of applicability; which is why we want this law to be backed by the State Government and legislative process so as to prevent any harm to the consumers and trade, without compromising the State’s special position,” he said.

The Finance Minister while reacting to the opposition’s demand that a ‘separate GST’ should be brought in for the state, said that it would require an amendment of the Section 5 of the state’s constitution.

“That would open a Pandora’s Box. Instead, what we are proposing is that the GST Council must come within the ambit of Article 370,” he said.

During his speech Drabu many a times said that the government doesn’t intend to touch the constitution of JK and that the opposition should stop misleading the people regarding JK’s special status.

“We are not touching the Constitution of J&K, so where is the question of violation of basic structure of constitution?  Under previous regimes, 94 out of 97 items in union lists have been made to apply to J&K. The Opposition can’t keep on deceiving people by trying to create misconceptions vis-à-vis JK’s Special Status,” Drabu said.

He added, “The Congress issued a Presidential Order in 1986 to essentially make laws for the state. After the 1986 ordinance which was effectively the withdrawal of residuary powers of the state, three months later, National Conference formed the Government in the State with Congress.”

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