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GST hopes boosted as govt calls early winter session of Parliament

New Delhi: Hopes for the roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST) from 1 April brightened on Thursday after the National Democratic Alliance, or NDA, advanced the month-long winter session of Parliament to 16 November.

Consequently, the crucial budget session will also be advanced as the government is keen to present it early so that it is able to implement the proposals from 1 April—at present, it is 1 June. “The government is very clear that we want to advance the budget session; and for that, the winter session needs to be advanced,” said a senior minister in the government who is in the know of developments.

While no formal dates have been announced, the budget is likely to be presented around 1 February.

The decision to advance the session was taken in a meeting of the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs (CCPA). Last year, the winter session was between 26 November to 23 December.

With this, the attention will now shift to the GST Council—due to meet next week to work out a consensus on contentious issues such as the GST rates.

After managing to get the Constitutional amendment bill for GST passed in the monsoon session of Parliament, the government is keen for an early approval from Parliament to the supporting legislations for implementing GST—the central GST and the integrated GST laws.

To be sure, this is possible only if the GST Council signs off on the draft laws and all the related issues like tax rates and the exemptions list by 22 November. Advancing the winter session works for the government’s larger plan to advance the date of the budget by a month to ensure the entire budget process is completed by 31 March.

The government is moving ahead with its budget preparations keeping in mind a target date of 1 February for presentation of the Union budget, finance secretary Ashok Lavasa told Mint in an interview last week.

“The assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa are expected in mid of February and March. I think this decision to advance budget session is linked to the assembly elections because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to pass some bills and make some announcements in the budget session, which can help them in the assembly polls,” said Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and director at the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Apart from the bills related to GST, other bills that will be taken up include AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014 which seeks to address HIV-related discrimination, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 and the Employee’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

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