Parliament: Why EC won't support poll funding, banks' bad loan burden

Dr Harsh Vardhan in Parliament on Monday | Twitter
Parliament on Monday met after a 20-day long break to discuss the Budget presented by Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2020. The nearly three-week long break helps the finance ministry to put finishing touches to the Budget 2020-2021 aimed that stimulating the economy that has been on the downward spiral for almost three quarters now. 

The first phase of the Budget Session began on January 31 and will go on till February 11. The session started at 10:30, however, the Question Hour session was whitewashed due to several disruptions over the next few huors that led to the adjournment of both the houses till Tuesday. Here are the top bullet points of the Budget Session:

1. FM introduces 'Vivad se Vishwas' scheme

Nirmala Sitharaman while moving the Direct Tax Vivaad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020 amid ruckus in Lok Sabha, said the government has taken measures to reduce litigation and a similar scheme was announced for indirect tax disputes.

Under the proposed scheme, taxpayers willing to settle disputes shall be allowed a complete waiver of interest and penalty if they pay the entire amount of tax in dispute by March 31 this year, following which a 10 per cent additional disputed tax shall have to be paid over and above the tax liability.

Further, where arrears relate to disputed interest or penalty only, then 25 per cent of disputed penalty or interest shall have to be paid if the payment is made by March 31, beyond which the same shall be enhanced to 30 per cent.

2. 63.5 mn Income Tax returns e-filed

As many as 63.5 million income tax returns have been filed electronically till mid February this fiscal, up from 62.8 million in 2018-19, Parliament was informed on Monday.

Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur, during question hour, said the number of assessees filing Income Tax Returns (ITRs) has consistently increased during the last three years as well as in the current year.

He said 51.8 million ITRs were e-filed in Assessment Year 2016-17, 53.2 million in 2017-18, 62.8 million in 2018-19 and 63.5 million in 2019-20  till February 15.

3. Over 400,000 Income Tax appeals pending

In a written reply to a query in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur said that as many as 375,306 Income Tax appeals were pending before high courts and the Supreme Court, in 2014-15. Such appeals increased to 478,801 in 2018-19.

4. Bill to raise permission limit for abortions tabled

Union health minister Dr harsh vardhan introduced a bill that seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from the present 20 weeks to 24 weeks was introduced in Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was moved amid vehement protests by opposition members against the Central government over the Delhi violence which heas left at least 47 persons dead.

After approving the bill last month, the government had said this will ensure safe termination of pregnancies and also give women reproductive rights over their bodies.

5. Non-Performing Assets of PSBs stands at Rs 7.27 trillion

The government on Monday said the Non Performing Assets (NPAs) of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) stood at Rs 7.27 trillion as on September 30, 2019.

Anurag Thakur, the junior finance minister, said in Lok Sabha that scheduled commercial banks and select financial institutions have reported frauds to the tune of Rs 1.13374 trillion in the first half of the current financial year.

Thakur said during Question Hour that as a result of transparent recognition of stressed assets as NPAs, gross NPAs of PSBs, as per RBI data on global operations, rose from Rs 2.79016 trillion as on March 31, 2015, to Rs 6.84732 trillion as on March 31, 2017 and Rs 8,95,601 crore as on March 31, 2018.

"As a result of Government's strategy of recognition, resolution, recapitalisation and reforms, have since declined by Rs 1.68305 trillion to Rs 7.27296 trillion as on September 30, 2019," he said.

6. EC not in favour of state funding of elections 

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is not in favour of state funding of elections as it will not be able to prohibit or check candidates own expenditure over and above provided for by states, the Lok Sabha was informed on Monday.

Anurag Thakur said the ECI's view is that for addressing the real issues, there have to be radical changes in the provisions regarding receipts of funds by political parties and the manner in which such funds are spent by them so as to provide for complete transparency in the matter.

"The Election Commission has informed the Government that it is not in favour of State Funding as it will not be able to prohibit or check candidates own expenditure or expenditure by others over and above that which is provided for by the state," the minister said.

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