Lok Sabha Passes Taxation and Companies Amendment Bills in Parliament

Parliament-India.
Parliament of India. Image - YinYang, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Lok Sabha on Saturday passed Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 amid counter allegations levelled by both the BJP and the Congress members on their top party leadership.

Linking the present government’s PM CARES Fund and Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) set up by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948, both the parties raised suspicion over transparency of both the funds.

The cross allegations created uproar for the second consecutive day in the lower House when Union Minister of State Anurag Thakur on Saturday again raised question on the transparency of PMNRF alleging Congress of utilising the money received in the fund for the benefit of Nehru-Gandhi family while participating in the debate over the Bill which was moved by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday for consideration and passage.

The Minister made allegation against Congress’ interim President Sonia Gandhi and her family of utilising the fund of PMNRF being members of the trust.

He also alleged that funds received in PMNRF were transferred in Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and from their it was transferred into various other trusts.

Thakur also alleged that fugitive controversial televangelist Zakir Naik donated Rs 50 lakh into Sonia Gandhi-led Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2011. Though the amount was returned in 2014 it clarified links of the party with Naik, Thakur alleged.

However, the Congress raised questions on creation of PM CARES when PMNRF was already present and it was used to help states during various disasters from 2015 to till now.

Congress leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Gaurav Gogoi alleged that there are many “loopholes” in Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) fund.

The party also sought details of Vivekanand Foundation and some other trusts related to the BJP.

The Bill was later passed with voice vote during over four hour long counter allegations by both the parties on each other.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday to replace the Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020 which was promulgated on March 31 this year.

Speaking on the Bill, Sitharaman said we are raising questions on Rajiv Gandhi Foundation because Congress gave money to the trust from PMNRF.

Countering Congress allegations, the Minister said what names the party has taken are not given money from PM-CARES fund on which the opposition has raised question on several occasions earlier after it was set up to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“You are a responsible political party. Don’t spread rumours. It’s not good for your credibility.”

Citing Rafale fight jet deal, the Minister said Congress indulged in “rumour mongering” and it got back replies. “You will again get answers.”

The government came with the Bill which seeks to amend the Income-tax Act 1961, the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017; the Finance Act, 2019; the Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Act, 2020 and the Finance Act, 2020 which are administered by the Department of Revenue through two boards, namely, the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes. Thus, no additional expenditure is contemplated on the enactment of the Bill.

The Bill provides for extension of various time limits for completion or compliance of actions under the specified Acts and reduction in interest, waiver of penalty and prosecution for delay in payment of certain taxes or levies during the specified period.

The Finance Act, 2020 is also proposed to be amended to clarify regarding capping of surcharge at 15 per cent on dividend income of the Foreign Portfolio Investor.

The Bill also proposes to empower the Central government to remove any difficulty up to a period of two years and provide for repeal and savings of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020.

The Lok Sabha on Saturday unanimously passed the Bill which has the provisions to promote ease of doing business and ease of living for corporates in India and decriminalisation provision for firms indulging in small offences.

The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to amend the Companies Act, 2013. The Bill was moved in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020 to introduce certain modifications to the Companies Act, 2013.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Bill in the House for its passage after a marathon discussion while passing the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.

The Bill was passed following a lengthy debate on Saturday evening, almost three hours after the scheduled time set for the House to run in the ongoing Monsoon Session that ends at 7 p.m.

The Finance Minister said that decriminalisation will benefit small MSMES (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises).

“If we put these small businessmen into jail for small offences, it will affect their family,” Sitharaman said.

The Minister said there were 134 penal provisions when the law was made in 2013 and now these have come down to 124 after the passing of the Bill.

However, the minister clarified that the number of serious offences or non-compoundable offences will remain the same as 2013 — 35.

She explained that non-compoundable offences included frauds and those hurting public interest, and said “there is no provision to give the offenders relief under this law.”

Sitharaman said, “When we talk about the amendments, there will be decriminalisation on 48 sections, providing ease of living by reducing the burden of paper work.”

The minister said that the government is adding a new chapter to the Bill which will benefit producer organisations so that they can do direct business.

Under the 2013 Act, certain provisions from the Companies Act, 1956 continue to apply to producer companies. These include provisions on their membership, conduct of meetings, and maintenance of accounts.

Producer companies include companies which are engaged in the production, marketing and sale of agricultural produce, and sale of produce from cottage industries.

The Bill removes these provisions and adds a new chapter to the Act with similar provisions for producer companies.

The Bill makes three changes. First, it removes the penalty for certain offences. For example, it removes the penalties which apply for any change in the rights of a class of shareholders made in violation of the Act. Where a specific penalty is not mentioned, the Act prescribes a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 which may extend to Rs 1,000 per day for a continuing default.

Second, it removes imprisonment in certain offences. For example, it removes the imprisonment of three years applicable to a company for buying back its shares without complying with the Act.

Third, it reduces the amount of fine payable in certain offences. For example, it reduces the maximum fine for failure to file an annual return with the Registrar of Companies from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.

Under the Act, small companies are only liable to pay up to 50 per cent of the penalty for certain offences. The Bill extends this provision to all producer companies and startups.

The Bill empowers the Central government to allow certain classes of public companies to list classes of securities (as may be prescribed) in foreign jurisdictions. The Bill empowers the Central government, in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), to exclude companies issuing specified classes of securities from the definition of a “listed company”.

Under the Act, companies with net worth, turnover or profits above a specified amount are required to constitute CSR committees and spend 2 per cent of their average net profit in the last three financial years towards its CSR policy.

The Bill exempts companies with a CSR liability of up to Rs 50 lakh a year from setting up CSR committees.

Further, companies which spend any amount in excess of their CSR obligation in a financial year can set off the excess amount towards their CSR obligations in subsequent financial years.

The Bill also empowers the Central government to require classes of unlisted companies (as may be prescribed) to prepare and file periodical financial results, and to complete the audit or review of such results.

It also seeks to establish benches of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

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Arushi Sana is the Co Founder of NYK Daily. She was a Forensic Data Analyst previously employed with EY (Ernst & Young). She aims to develop a global community of knowledge and journalism par excellence through this News Platform. Arushi holds a degree in Computer Science Engineering. She is also a Mentor for women suffering from Mental Health, and helps them in becoming published authors. Helping and educating people always came naturally to Arushi. She is a writer, political researcher, a social worker and a singer with a flair for languages. Travel and nature are the biggest spiritual getaways for her. She believes Yoga and communication can make the world a better place, and is optimistic of a bright yet mysterious future!

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