The NC today asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to implement the GST on its own terms by protecting the fiscal autonomy and special status of the state and said it would fight tooth and nail if the tax regime was applied in its present form. Senior National Conference leader and former state finance minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, told reporters here that the state was competent enough to form its own tax regime. “We have a clear stand on it. If the constitutional amendment (101, passed by Parliament) is applied in Jammu and Kashmir in its present form, we will fight it tooth and nail,” he said. “We will not allow it, we will not accept it. GST, at the cost of our special position and fiscal autonomy, is not acceptable to the NC,” Rather said. He said the state government should implement the tax regime on its own terms.
“We are telling them (the state government) to impose our own tax. If government of India wants to impose C-GST (Central GST), we will impose our own here. Whatever is the government of India’s share, we will give them that,” he said. “The money would not be devolved from there, there will be upward, reverse devolution. Neither will they have to make a law, nor will it impact our fiscal autonomy. We will form our own tax regime,” he said.
Citing the example of Canada, the NC leader said the state was competent enough to form its own tax regime. “Are we not competent? If such a system can work in Canada, where one of the provinces refused to impose a GST- like tax regime and formed its own, why cannot it happen here? There are precedents in the world, only you (the state government) will have to study them,” he said. The former finance minister said the NC-led state government in 2012 had prepared a blueprint for a tax regime as it had foreseen the implementation of the GST. He said it prepared the blueprint on its own terms by preserving the state’s special position and fiscal autonomy and took expert legal opinion on the issue.
A proposal was also sent to the Cabinet which referred it to a sub-committee which okayed it and sent it back to the Cabinet. “A copy of that blueprint is with the Empowered Committee (of the finance ministers of various states). That blueprint can be a way forward. Let the government study it,” Rather said. He said the party gave this suggestion to the government at an all-party meet yesterday but they have not recieved any response so far. He said the NC wanted reforms but not ones which were against the wishes and aspirations of the people. Asked if the state government, which enjoys a majority in the Assembly, implements the Constitutional Amendment 101 in its original form, Rather said, “The state government will be playing with fire and it will have dangerous consequences.” He said the state would be surrendering its power to the Centre if the GST was implemented in its present form.
“The state will lose its authority. We will have no powers to revise the taxes which the present finance minister has promised the business community. He cannot do that. It is the GST council which has all the powers,” he claimed. He said the state cannot touch a law passed by the Parliament and it would increase the powers of the Centre and reduce the residual powers of the state. Rather claimed that the state government was confused over the issue. “On one hand they call an all-party meeting and a session of the state Assembly to discuss it, on the other, the Commercial Taxes Department issued advertisement in newspapers here asking business establishments to register themselves under the new law,” he said. “Which law are they talking about? When the law has not been passed here yet, how can the government issue such an advertisement,” he added.
The NC leader said the state government should have held consultations over the issue when the Parliament passed the law last year. “The Union finance minister gave the states time to get ready. But they (J-K government) did not talk about it for 10 months and now want to implement it in 10 days. Such a comprehensive law cannot be implemented in a hurry,” he said.