No wish for laws treating businesses with suspicion: FM Nirmala Sitharaman

FM Nirmala SitharamanThe FM said at the latest meeting of the GST Council, she suggested deliberation on whether rate revisions could be a once-a-year exercise
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said the government had no wish for laws which treat every business entity with suspicion. This comes right after Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said business needs supervision but not suspicion. A sentiment the FM said she fully empathised which.

The government was working towards a desired environment in this regard and required business to work with it, she said.

Delivering the Nani Palkhivala Centenary Celebrations Lecture here, she said: “My first and earnest attempt, which continues till today, is to decriminalise everything to do with the Companies Law or related laws — the very point the Prime Minister keeps talking. And, I was very impressed, again when the Tata Group's head said the government should trust people, government should trust its own citizens.”

“In the law, there are a number of sections leading to a criminal approach and, therefore, penalties of even jail terms. The government's effort is to decriminalise the Companies Law, ensure no other Act of the government — whether it is on income tax or whether it is Prevention of Money Laundering Act — will have such an impact.” 

“We do not want a law which is going to treat every business house with suspicion. That is not the intent of this government at all,” she said. 

Chandrasekaran, in his Palkhivala Memorial lecture last week, said there was micro-management and suspicion (from the government’s side). All rules in the country start with suspicion, he said.

The FM said at the latest meeting of the GST Council, she suggested deliberation on whether rate revisions could be a once-a-year exercise. If the various committees say a rate reduction will lead towards inversion of the duty structure, we should have the largeness to refuse such a reduction. 

Also, the government has suggested that assessment of annual collection be on for a full year at the least before talking of rationalising GST. The matter is before the Council, she said. 

To a query on credibility of public data and the government's decision to withhold portions that might be against other sets of data, Sitharaman said it was a strange situation where people tended to question one set of numbers, based on the methodology, to question the entire data set of the government. A base year for calculation has to be done periodically and blaming the Narendra Modi for this is unacceptable, she said. 

On banks’ stressed loans, she said the insolvency law had helped to clear many of these. Banks has been asked to work on reducing the level of their non-performing assets.

As for tax collection targets, she in their absence, there would be a laidback attitude to revenue. Even so,  she had personally asked regional heads to ensure against harassment to tax payers.

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