DC Edit | GST reforms will work for India
The recent GST Council meeting, which among others, decriminalised certain offences, doubled the threshold for initiating litigation, and took several other crucial decisions, will work for India, its economy and society.
Though the council could only debate and take decisions only on half the items, eight out of 15 (and deferred the rest owing to paucity of time), which must give us an input that an additional reserve day should be allocated by the next meeting so every council meeting completes the listed agenda, the underlying thinking helps set good precedence beyond the context of the GST itself.
A crucial item that was missed included the issue of setting up of appellate tribunals, and any good system must have strong feedback, complaints and redressal of issues, which argues for itself why all items must be covered and decided upon quickly, without having to wait for a long time for the next meeting. The decision to not impose or levy any new additional taxes, or bring any hitherto untaxed goods or services under the ambit is also good for the economy, ahead of the Budget.
The decision to decriminalise particular offences, including one of obstruction or preventing an officer during discharge of duties, covered by a set of sub-clauses under section 132 of the CGST Act, which as a legal idea wears its colonial identity openly, is the best outcome from the 48th GST council meeting. Why should it be an offence to “obstruct” an officer while on duty? What even constitutes a valid obstruction? Such an idea should not find place in our legal system, and hopefully the GST is the first platform from which we cleanse this colonial legacy.
Similarly, the power to launch prosecution is best wielded with great care and little or no discretion. Doubling the threshold for most offences, except in cases of fake issuance of invoices, will reduce scope for harassment of common citizens and business at the hands of officials; and is always a wonderful, welcome development.