The Opposition today slammed the government over various provisions of the Finance Bill, saying those amounted to "tax terrorism" and a "serious effort to finish off" the spirit of democratic discourse and Parliamentary democracy."
"This is not a Finance Bill. This is more than a Finance Bill. This is an agenda for reducing Parliament to complete irrelevance. It is FBT..Finance Bill Terrorism," Congress member Jairam Ramesh said in the Rajya Sabha while participating in a debate on the legislation.
"The Finance Bill shows the skill of the Finance Minister to go in for the kill. He has really gone in for the kill in Finance Bill," the former Union minister said.
"I will take up only five clauses of this bill to show how Finance Minister has made serious effort to finish off the spirit of democratic discourse and Parliamentary democracy," he said. He said Jaitley had introduced a "pseudo inheritance tax", arguing that the transfer of assets to all private trusts will come under the ambit of taxation.
"It is an instrument of transferring assets to next generations. He amended that and said transfer of assets to relatives is exempted. Now the inheritance tax has gone out of the window," Ramesh said.
He also talked about another clause under which the "reason to suspect" will be invoked for going after a suspected tax evasion case.
"This has been condemned by everyone. But I want to condemn for one particular reason, which is that in 2012, when the Vodafone tax decision was taken, the Leader of the Opposition (Jaitley), who is now Leader of the House, called it tax terrorism.
"But Section 132 is tax terrorism to the power of a ten. If vodafone was a tax terrorism, then Section 132 is a Tax 'Jihad'. You have removed reason to believe, to suspect and given untrammelled power to the tax administration and bureaucracy," the Congress leader said.
Ramesh asked the FM, "what is the reason for going back into 1975 to introduce this draconian section. Is is because there are 25,000 cases pending in the High Courts or 2,500 cases pending in Supreme Court. Is it that way for accelerating decision-making. This is completely unacceptable."
On Clause 154 which proposes amendment to Companies Act to remove cap on company donations, he said, "by removing the cap and introducing the element of anonymity, you are going against the very spirit of corporate funding."
He also said that the "Green Tribunal Act has been completely emasculated through the Finance Bill."
On Clause 56, he said, "The Swarajya magazine, which is fully in consonance with the ruling party ideology, says Aadhaar overreach for making it a must for PAN will leave millions vulnerable. We started Aadhaar for better delivery of social services and for eliminating fake identity."
Another Congress leader K Rahman Khan also criticized the government for giving wide discretionary powers to the tax officials, saying this is a "draconian law to terrorise the honest citizens."
Talking about doing away with distinction of Plan and Non-Plan expenditure classification, he said,"Unless you bring accrual-based accounting in government, this capital and revenue classification of expenditure would not help."
P Bhattacharya (Congress) also criticized the government's intention to tax agriculture income and questioned how the income of farmers would be calculated.
Majeed Memon (NCP) attacked the government for its proposal to give discretionary powers to the tax officials.
Kanimozhi (DMK) asked the government to hear the pleas of farmers of Tamil Nadu who are here to meet the minister.
She told the House that the state is going through the worst drought ever in last 170 years. Digvijaya Singh (Congress) said since the BJP government came to power, it has been pushing things through the backdoor as they don't have numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
Out of 40 amendments listed under the Finance bill, he said only three pertained to financial matters.
He said the government was taking away the right of proper discussion on important matters in the Rajya Sabha.
He said the 'Inspector Raj' is set to come back with even the junior level income tax officers being given enormous powers.
Harivansh (JDU) said the country is heading towards 'inspector raj' once again with the Income Tax department gaining more powers due to proposed amendments listed under the Financial Bill.
Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) said the government, "by bringing in so many non-finacial matters in the garb of Finance Bill, amounts to the trampling of the integrity of the Constitution in the most brazen manner."
He said, "the government has put every matter under the sky in the Finance Bill and that was unacceptable."
He said, "Some of the issues should be reviewed and therefore the bill needs to be sent back to the Lok Sabha. Non-finnace matters should be taken away from the bill," Sen said.
KTS Tulsi (Nom) raised concerns regarding Aadhar being made mandatory and also removal of cap on funding to political parties. He also opposed the move to wind up tribunals.