Budget 2024 Updates

One more Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme; Date to be notifiedNo deduction u/s 37 for settlement amount if paid for violation of any lawFM proposes to lessen tedium of TDS; reduces rates in many casesFM overhauls capital gains regime; to come into play from todayFM hikes exemption limit for long-term capital gain to Rs 1.25 lakh + hikes tax rate to 12.5% on specified financial assetsTourism: Temple corridors to be developed in BiharCGST - Finance Bill proposes to amend Sec 9 to take ENA out of purview of GST + inserts Sec 11A to regularise non-levy of tax on general practice in tradeCGST - Sub-sections to be inserted in Act to relax time-limit to avail ITC u/s 16(4) + New Sec 74A proposed to provide for common time limit for demand notices in fraud cases3.4% of GDP allocated as Capital expenditure to support infra sectorCGST - Proviso to be inserted in Sec 30(2) to provide for enabling conditions for revocation of registration + Amendment in Sec 39 to mandate return filing by TDS deductors even if there is no deduction in a particular monthIGST - Amendment proposed to prohibit refund of unutilised ITC on zero-rated supplyIncome tax - Finance bill revamps re-assessment regime againCustoms - Finance Bill proposes to amend Sec 28DA for acceptance of different types of proof of origin under FTAsFM hikes standard deduction to Rs 75K for new ITR regime + revises tax rates for all income slabs + Rs 7000 Cr revenue foregoneIncome tax - Search & Seizure cases - Block assessment is backBudget withdraws 2% equalisation levyFM reduces corporate tax rate for foreign companies to 35%FM proposes vivad se vishwas scheme + hikes monetary limits for filing appealsFM proposes 20% capital gains tax on short-term assets + listed financial assets held for more than one year to be classified as long-termGovt scraps TDS on Mutual Funds + decriminalises delay in depositing TDS + rationalisation of compounding of offences + revamps reassessment periodBudget proposes comprehensive review of I-T Act, 1961 + simplifies provisions for charities and TDSFM reduces customs duty on gold and silver to 6% + Nil BCD on nickel cathodeBudget proposes to reduce BCD on mobile phone and chargers to 15% + exempts 25 minerals from customs dutyFM exempts cancer medicines from Customs duty + amends BCD for various machinesFM proposes Rs 48 lakh expenditure outlay; 4.9% fiscal deficitFM announces Rs 1 lakh crore fund for developing space economyPromotion of Tourism - Vishnupad temple and Bodh Gaya temple corridors to be supportedFM announces over Rs 11 lakh crore capital expenditure in current fiscalGovt to invest in small Nuclear energy plants in partnership with private playersCentre to ask States to lower stamp duty for women purchasers of housesIBC - More Benches of NCLT to be set up to speed up recoveryFM spikes limit of Mudra loan to Rs 20 lakhsBudget offers financial aid to labour-intensive MSMEs in manufacturing sectorGovt announces 3 crore additional houses under PM SchemeGovt to secure Rs 15K loan for AP from multilateral agenciesGovt to frame new policy for all-round development of Bihar, Jharkhand and OdishaGovt to give one-month salary to all new recruits in formal sector through EPFOGovt to promote vegetable clusters closer to urban settlementsGovt to focus on productivity of agriculture with climate-resilient seedsFM allocates Rs 2 lakh outlay for PM's five schemes for job creation and farmersFM Nirmala Sitharaman presents 7th Union Budget in ParliamentBudget 2024: FM arrives at Parliament; Speech to begin at 11AMEconomic Survey 2023-24 - from GST PerspectiveUkrainian FM goes on tour to ChinaI-T- Additions framed u/s 69A are untenable where affidavits submitted by assessee's parents to explain source of cash deposits, were discarded by AO without consideration : ITATSurvey acknowledges productivity loss due to mental health disordersI-T- Short term capital gains returned by the assessee in terms of provisions of section 50 of the Act on assets held for a period of more than 36 months be treated as long term capital gains: ITATExpenditure on social services up from 6.7% to 7.8% of GDP: SurveyI-T-Additions framed u/s 68 are upheld where assessee is unable to prove genuineness of transaction involving purchase and sale of penny stock: ITATTrade deficit contracts to USD 78 bn from USD 126 bn in 2023I-T-Re-assessment is invalidated when there is no failure on part of assessee to make full and true disclosure of facts necessary for assessment: ITATCorporate profitability has peaked to 15-yr-old high between 2020-2023: SurveyI-T- When cash generated out of sales has been credited in the books of accounts, the provisions of Sec.69A could not be invoked: ITATBudget 2024: More relief for senior citizens & individual taxpayers on card; tweaking of capital gains tax likely; steady capital expenditure to stayI-T- If any amount invested is purely a strategic investment & for purpose of commercial expediency, then AO cannot hold such investments to be for non-business purpose: ITATGoogle backpedals on plan to scrap cookies from ChromeCus - For a HNWI individual, an expensive watch of 'Rolex' make would be his personal effect but same may not be the case if the person is of mere means - Pendant studded with diamonds not liable for confiscation: HCGovt amends Recruitment Rules for Debts Recovery TribunalGST - Even if no date, time or place of hearing is indicated in the notice issued, it was the duty of assessee to file his reply to SCN, which was admittedly received - Plea regarding violation of principles of natural justice cannot be countenanced: HCAbhinav Bindra conferred with Olympic OrderGST - Mismatch between value of e-way bills generated on portal and returns filed in Form GSTR-3B - Petitioner did not provide a comprehensive explanation - To remit sum of Rs.3.50 crores within six weeks - Matter remanded: HCHackers mercilessly hack Bangladesh PM’s website along with police portalsGST - Rule 30 of Rules, 2017 - Assessing officer ought to have issued summons and obtained clarification rather than estimating the outward supply value at 110% of purchase value - Order set aside and matter remanded subject to remit of 10% disputed tax demand: HCUS law-makers call for resignation of Secret Service chief in Trump assassination caseGST - Net ITC shown incorrectly - An inadvertent error was committed and such error was rectified, albeit irregularly, however, sum recovered from petitioner's bank account - Order set aside and matter remanded: HCKarnataka IT Industries piling pressure on govt to extend working hoursGST - Since notification is declared unconstitutional, Amount of IGST paid pursuant to Entry No. 10 of Notification No. 10 of 2017 is to be refunded along with statutory interest: HCStudy says earth’s water depleting fastFDI inflows slide to USD 26.5 bn in 2024 from USD 42 bn in 2023: Economic Survey
 
I miss a 'strong opposition', says the PM - Here's an eight-point Agenda for the opposition

JUNE 21, 2024

By Naresh Minocha, Consulting Editor

"ASK the most difficult and sharpest questions." This is the gauntlet Mr. Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw down at the Opposition on 19th July 2021 in his traditional comments to the media before the start of monsoon session.

Mr. Modi added: "Also allow the government to respond in a disciplined environment." He believed: "This will give a boost to the democracy, strengthen people's trust and improve the pace of development."

Couple this quote with Mr. Modi's forgotten wisdom that is vital for Amrit Kaal: "Governance depends on the ability to communicate and understand human psychology...Those, who are in power, are soon surrounded by sycophants and rumour mongers and soon we get cut off from reality. We are encased in a golden cage and isolated and fed with filtered information. Thus, we may be led to take wrong decisions. Learning to ask right questions to the right person will end all this," stated Mr. Modi on 5th June 2010. He was delivering Keynote address at the "Suraj Sankalp" National Convention.

These two quotes should constitute the perfect ignition for healthy clash of titans (ruling NDA versus INDIA block) in the newly constituted 18th Lok Sabha and eternal Rajya Sabha over the next five years. Such quotes should inspire the Opposition to draw up its agenda in advance before each session of Parliament to focus on alarming governance deficit.

The very idea of mooting public agenda for the Opposition might appear off-beat. Most people expect journalists & analysts to pen agenda for the new Government. No Government in India, however, cares for such unsolicited ideas. However, Mr. Modi would certainly spare few seconds to read this column as it is a sincere attempt to ease his sorrow over feeble Opposition he encountered over the last decade.

Vibrant & informed debates on chronic challenges faced by the nation can make the Government perform well. In the previous two terms, Modi Government deflected all valid criticism by pointing instances of shortfalls & setbacks suffered by Congress and its coalition regimes.

To convince the Opposition to embark on the road to rigorous questioning of each facet of governance, one needs to extract few more pearls of wisdom from Modiji's repertoire of speeches, interviews, etc.

Reckon his anguish over the Opposition's lacklustre performance, both in and outside Parliament. The elaboration on this count is needed to appreciate the Opposition's duty to make the Government transparent, accountable and credible.

Mr. Modi's taunts over non-existence of strong opposition should serve as a wake-up call at least for the INDIA block. It must dig out stunning facts on "A to Z" issues to lend credence to its usual, opiniated criticism.

News18 TV channel last month quoted PM as saying he missed a "strong opposition" at the Centre. And this "pained his heart" as paraphrased by the news channel.

In an interview with the News18, Mr. Modi stated: "In a democracy, it is very important that there is a strong opposition, which keeps the government on the sword's edge and on its toes, such an opposition is very necessary. There is no absence of talent in this country and they should get an opportunity. I thought that in 2014 to 2024 that I should have got a strong opposition, if there is one thing missing in my life, it is that of a good opposition."

Similarly, in another, recent interview with News X channel, PM bemoaned: "The Opposition has not been able to play a strong role." Mr Modi's passion for strong opposition also found echo in his speech that he delivered in a Uttar Pradesh village on 3rd June 2022.

He opined: "I want that there should be a strong opposition in the country and there should be political parties dedicated to democracy".

Way back in November 2013 at a rally in Jodhpur, Mr Modi observed: "the power of democracy lies in respecting and honouring the opposite views as well, democracy can't function without this! No matter how many voices have been raised against me, I take it head on, have been taking it for last 12 years, have I ever lost my tongue? This is the beauty of democracy, the strength of democracy. The more we will be criticized, the better we will perform."

Modiji articulated his craving for criticism in his famous 'Bharat Ki Baat Sabke Saath' at London on 18th April 2018. He stated: "I want this Government to be criticised. Criticism makes democracy strong. My problem is not against criticism. To criticise, one has to research and find proper facts. Sadly, it does not happen now. What happens instead is allegations."

The best way for MPs to research on Mr. Modi is to rummage through the entire gamut of his speeches, books, interviews, public letters etc. Imagine how MPs can unleash the power of accountability by reading Mr. Modi's past & present sermons & connecting & comparing them with ground reality and bitter facts scattered in official documents & independent studies.

It is not difficult for INDIA block to compare his sermons with the facts embedded in Parliament questions, numerous official reports and documents released by G20, IMF, World Bank etc.

All preachings of Mr. Modi should thus serve as adrenalin for the Opposition. It should develop cool passion to show the mirror to PM, BJP & NDA. Instead of rushing to the well of the house (Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha), each & every Opposition MP should demand civilized debate on "A to Z" issues in presence of Mr. Modi.

He has often avoided parliamentary proceedings except for situation where his presence is must. Instances include his speeches on reply to motion of thanks on President's address or no-confidence motion or image-building events such as installing Sengol in New Parliament building.

Let INDIA Block draw up its agenda to make the Government transparent and accountable. This requires the Opposition to pose precise questions and supplementary questions during the debates and in the case of 'starred' questions where the question-submitting MP has the right to put supplementary questions to the minister.

Unstarred questions and answers are merely tabled in Parliament and are not taken up for verbal interaction. They, at times, contain evasive replies. Such cases should be brought to the notice of the Speaker as deemed contempt of the House. If Speaker takes such issues lightly, then the Opposition must compile half a dozen instances of evasive or inappropriate replies to show accountability deficit in the regime.

Modi Government often avoids attack from the Opposition by replying to certain Parliament question that information sought is being collected or the matter is under consideration.

Such replies are often transformed into government assurances to be fulfilled in the future. These assurances are dragged on for years with many dropped by making excuses that no timeline can be given for fulfilling them. The Opposition MPs should turn the heat on the Government by paraphrasing the questions at the given next opportunity.

Much depends on the House Speaker's conduct, which left a lot to be desired during the last 10 years. He or she should not only be fair to all members but also seen to be fair. For him or her, the rule book and the Constitution should be dharma. He or she should certainly not frequently cut short the speeches of the Opposition leaders. If shortage of time is the excuse, let the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha meet more often in a year and sit for more hours in a day.

After all, the public wants parliamentary system to perform well. Let both alliances respect the dictum 'Work is Worship'.

In the previous two terms, Modi Government, did not allow the Opposition to raise issues in several instances. In other instances, it did not let the bills be referred to Joint Select Committee or to the relevant Parliamentary Standing Committee.

This should not be the case during the next five years. One hopes the speaker would give equal opportunity to the Opposition to raise issues. It should also be allowed to rebut the usual blame-game the ruling party plays when asked to explain its poor performance on all sort of issues. They range from poverty to cross-border terrorism to misuse of central investigation agencies.

Now consider a brief Macro Agenda for the Opposition comprising eight items:

First, flag the uncertainty on the programme and governance style of National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Cite conflicting stance of Mr. Modi on different occasions as one of the key reasons for seeking transparency. Reckon different priorities of BJP and other member parties of NDA as mentioned in their respective manifestos. Which guarantee (promise) of which party would be shelved?

In July 2023, Mr. Modi renamed NDA as New India, Developed Nation & A-Aspiration of people and regions. He, however, did not ensure common manifesto for 2024 polls, unlike Bharat Ratna A.B. Vajpayee who had facilitated NDA manifesto for 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

In fact, Mr. Modi eclipsed the prospective role of NDA by end-2023 after being named as Newsmaker of the Year by India Today. He trumpeted #ModiKiGuarantee & #AbkiBaar400Paar slogans at different platforms.

In an interview with India Today, Modi exuded: BJP is going to be the "natural choice" of the people in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. He found fault with coalition governments.

He articulated: "There is a consensus among the people, the experts, the opinion makers and friends from the media too, that our country doesn't need a mili-juli sarkar. We have lost 30 years due to instability resulting from mili-juli sarkars. People have seen the lack of governance, the appeasement politics, corruption in the era of mili-juli sarkars."

Shockingly enough, BJP's 2024 Manifesto blacked out the name 'National Democratic Alliance/NDA. It instead boasts of "Pioneering International Alliances".

As put by the manifesto titled 'Modi Ki Guarantee 2024', "We will continue forming and leading alliances of like-minded partners in areas of mutual interest such as the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, the One Future Alliance, the Global Biofuels Alliance and the Big Cat Alliance."

This has naturally created uncertainty in the mind of public and investors whether the malaise of coalition regimes would become ubiquitous during next five years. Would #ModiKiGuarantee or #NDA ki Guarantee be the stamp of governance over the next five years?

Would Modiji score a hat-trick of working without transparent NDA's 'National Agenda for Governance'. NDA under PM A.B.Vajpayee had unveiled in March 1998 such charter of commitment to certain values. It was signed by leaders of constituents of the coalition and was thus deemed as NDA Ki Guarantee.

As put by NDA's 12-pages agenda, "we are convinced" India "cannot be governed on the arithmetic alone of majority and minority. Governance must become unifying not divisive in practice. It is this mindless manner of the domination of the majority that has led to bitterness, hostility and confrontation- and has even made the opposition and ruling parties like permanent adversaries."

It continued: "This destructive trend of the politics of negativism and untouchability, which has distorted our body politic in the last few decades, calls for an immediate corrective. We will, therefore, strive to develop national consensus on all major issues..."

To avoid confusion, we should understand that this coalition dharma is different from what the President might state as agenda of new government in her address to joint session of Parliament. President's speech is not approved by each member of NDA. It is mere outcome of interaction between PM's office and President's Estate. Moreover, there is no guarantee that promises made in manifesto would turn out to be mere illusion. Two instances in point are A) promise, to transform India into developed nation by 2020, articulated in Presidential address delivered in February 2003 during NDA regime. B) Promise, to make India slum-free within five years, made in Presidential address delivered during June 2009 under UPA regime.

The forthcoming President's Address, for instance, might not include NDA's two key partners- JDU & TDP's - quest for grant of special category status (SCS) to Bihar and Andhra Pradesh (AP) respectively. These long-pending demands are perfect fit into renamed NDA in which A stands for "Aspiration of people and regions".

Second, SCS thus becomes the natural 2nd agenda item for the Opposition. It should thus move a resolution for balanced development of the nation. There is more to inclusive development than beautifying Varanasi, Ayodhya and the like. We should return to Mr. Modi's vision to build 100 smart cities and 100 new cities.

And for a balanced development, it is essential to grant of SCS to Bihar, AP and any other State lagging behind developed states. The concept of SCS, in fact, reflects the spirit of Mr. Modi's visionary slogan Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.

As aptly put by Mr. Modi at a rally in Nawada, Bihar during October 2015, "India will prosper when Bihar develops". It is hard to visualize anyone opposing grant of SCS to Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, which has suffered a separation of natural resources & assets rich Telangana region into a separate State in 2014.

Let this serve as the Opposition's signal for consensus politics and first stepping stone in the new road for Viksit Bharat by 2047.

This brings us to third agenda for the Opposition for holistic debate on transforming India into a developed nation. Firstly, identify and define what are the fundamentals that make a nation a developed nation. What are top 25 indicators that should be used to assess whether India is a developed nation. What should be the average GDP growth rate and GDP-Tax ratio to attain the 2047 target?

What would be projected threshold per capita income limit for a developed nation by 2047?

The Opposition should move a resolution on these lines: This House deplores BJP's attempt to market slogan #ViksitBharat2047 as new vision without doing any homework (Don't let 'Developed Nation' Vision Turn into Grand Illusion, Again)

The fact is that NDA Government had repeatedly resolved to transform India into a developed nation by 2020. This resolve was voiced by PM A.B. Vajpayee from ramparts of Red Fort and by President APJ Abdul Kalam in his address to Parliament. (read https://bit.ly/3AqEVpw).

Realizing that this obscure goal was nowhere near sight, BJP mooted shifting of this target to 2025 during 2013 when it became clear that it was destined to win 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In a presentation titled 'BJP Vision 2025: Transforming India', BJP stated: "This document is a roadmap for India to become a developed nation where every Indian shall enjoy the fruits of development and prosperity. It sets out goals we can achieve by 2025."

The document listed "BJP's 20 big ideas to develop India." The document was to be released publicly on 8th March 2014. The release was, however, put off till the completion of Lok Sabha elections 2014.

The biggest initiative missing in the 20 big ideas is timely generation of credible statistics by institutions whose operational freedom should be restored in spirit. Let this be the fourth agenda item for the Opposition.

It should seek adjournment motion on unprecedented break and inordinate delay in conducting Decennial Census that was due in 2021. Such census has been conducted without fail every 10 years since 1872. This is first time that there has been a break in periodicity.

The impact of the delay on policy formulation, reforms and inclusion and exclusion of beneficiaries under welfare scheme is colossal. Without census data, the talk of transforming India into developed nation and inclusive growth would remain empty slogans. A lot needs to be done for timely availability of national, state and local-level data in different fields. (Build Amrit Kaal Bharat With Latest Quality Data)

Fifth agenda item for the Opposition should be seeking timely tabling of reports of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) during any given session of Parliament. For the last few years, CAG reports are bunched and tabled during the last week of the session. This hardly leaves any time for the MPs to read and raise issues.

The Opposition should seek amendment of rules for both houses to facilitate mandatory discussion of CAG reports. The new rule should also provide for tabling of time-bound action taken reports on CAG findings and recommendations. In the previous term, the Opposition missed an opportunity to discuss policy scam in an infrastructure arena unearthed by two CAG reports. It is still not too late for it to discover these reports and fire "sharpest" questions that Mr. Modi is yearning for.

The sixth agenda item should be restoration and rejuvenation of institutional mechanism. A case in point is Inter-State Council (ISC), which was convened only once in last 10 years!

ISC is the constitutional forum for sorting out centre-state issues and inter-state disputes. It is supposed to meet at least thrice in a year as per Presidential Order on ISC issued in March 1990. As CM, Mr. Modi had been most convincing champion demanding regular meeting of ISC.

The Opposition should also seek revival of moribund institutions such as National Integration Council and National Population Commission. These PM-chaired institutions have not met even once after Mr. Modi became PM!!

The seventh agenda item should be debate on indicators for ease of living (EoL) starting with water crisis in Delhi and elsewhere in the country and power cuts or failures. Collective failure of Centre and States to ensure enforcement of Constitution- guaranteed right to education to all children.

The debate should call for comparative EoL study of slum dwellers including rag-pickers and other urban citizens. The debate should shed light on the funds leakages & other flaws in direct benefit transfer (DBT) as pointed out CAG in State Reports over the last two or three years. Similarly, there is case for seeking accountability in flaws and frauds in Ayushman Bharat's Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) scheme.

The Opposition should demand EoL index for Indians and its regular comparison with similar indices in developed and developing countries. It should have happiness as one of the parameters.

To make PM feel what a strong opposition is, the eighth agenda should call for special session on policy paralysis, which was Mr. Modi's hobby-horse when he mocked UPA and its PM Dr Manmohan Singh. BJP's 2024 Manifesto, inadvertently gave proof of policy paralysis by stating that BJP Government would formulate "a National Litigation Policy (NLP) to expedite the resolution of all matters in courts, lower the cost of contested court proceedings, and decrease the number of cases in which the government is a party and the consequent load on the courts."

The fact is that Modi Government delayed implementation of UPA Cabinet- approved NLP, which was unveiled in June 2010.

Ironically, in 2014 manifesto stated that BJP Government will "implement the National Litigation Policy in letter and spirit to reduce average pendency time of cases." After formation of Modi Government, it kept stating that NLP 2015 was in works.

Later, it repeatedly replied to parliament questions that the Government was in the process of formulating a NLP. Even the Supreme Court's stinging reminder to Union Government to implement NLP in a judgment delivered in April 2018 has had no effect on it. This feet-dragging triggered a public interest litigation in Delhi High Court (DHC). It too directed the Union Government in September 2023 to prepare time-bound action plan for implementing NLP.

Ten years is too long period for any responsible regime to defend the delay in implementing NLP under the garb of initiative to formulate the policy afresh. NLP holds the key to minimizing the clogging of the judicial system with litigation.

As put by the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 24th April 2018 in which Union Government was an appellant, "this is an extremely unfortunate situation of unnecessary and avoidable burdening of this Court through frivolous litigation which calls for yet another reminder through the imposition of costs on the Union of India while dismissing this appeal."

The judgment continued: "We hope that someday some sense, if not better sense, will prevail on the Union of India with regard to the formulation of a realistic and meaningful National Litigation Policy and what it calls 'ease of doing business', which can, if faithfully implemented benefit litigants across the country."

NLP is just one instance of policy paralysis. There are many cases of PP with few persisting from UPA's first term. (Mr. Modi Creates Policy Paralysis that he once Detested)

Similarly, there are many issues that the Opposition should research to collate information into agenda items for five years to keep PM in good humour. This column is just a humble attempt to aid Opposition in fulfilling Mr. Modi's desire to take on strong opposition in the larger interest of democracy and our Bharat.

The Opposition should, however, always keep in mind Modi's oracle delivered in Lok Sabha on 7th February 2018.

He preached: "Criticisms in a democracy are the strength of a democracy. This is a must as only then we can churn the nectar out of it. However, democracy doesn't allow imposition of false accusations. You do not have the right to demoralise the people of the country for gaining political brownie points."


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