Reinstated CBI chief Verma fired again, Congress cries foul
Thomas Issac slams exemption limit hike for MSMEs, composition scheme extension
ALOK Verma’s return to the central bureau of investigation (CBI) after 77 days’ exile proved short-lived as a high-powered committee headed by prime minister Narendra Modi removed him for the post barely a day after he was re-instated by the Supreme Court.
The charge of the CBI has been given to additional director M Nageshwar Rao, a government order issued on Thursday evening said.
Sources said the committee found prima facie merit in the charges of corruption against Verma even though Congress member of the panel Mallikarjun Kharge vehemently opposed the ouster of the CBI chief.
Prime minister Modi and Justice AK Sikri, who was nominated by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi who had withdrawn himself, ruled in favour of the removal that was approved by 2-1 vote.
The move sparked a fresh round of political controversy with the Congress questioning the speed shown by the government to convene the meeting of the high-powered committee and the officer not being given a chance to present his case.
The central vigilance commission (CVC ) report had made eight charges against him.
Verma has now been appointed as director general of fire services. The government has also formed a nine-member committee to pick the next CBI chief.
The apex court had reinstated Verma just a day ago but had left his fate on the high-powered committee that was given a week’s time to take a decision. But soon after returning to the investigating agencies headquarters as chief, Verma scrapped transfer orders passed by the interim director and brought back officers close to him leading to a new bout of tussle.
Verma’s second ouster was as dramatic as his removal in October in a mid-night operation. Both Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were removed following a feud leading to serious allegations against each other.
The role of central vigilance commission had also come under scanner as the government had said the removal was on the recommendation of CVC.
Verma returned as the chief 77 days after he was shown the door but not beyond a day or two. Verma’s tenure was coming to an end by the end of this month.
Ahead of the meeting of the high-powered committee, Kharge had sought the inquiry report by the CVC into the issue.
The Congress said Verma’s removal is a vindication of the fact that the prime minister was afraid of the senior officer. The party claimed that Verma would have ordered a probe in the allegations of wrongdoing in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France.
KERALA Finance minister Thomas Issac has criticised the GST Council decision on Thursday offering relief to small businesses saying that it will have a financial impact of Rs 7,000 crore for the states.
“The GST Council decisions would cost the state governments around Rs 7,000 crore,” Issac told Financial Chronicle.
The revenue loss is on account of the hike in GST exemption threshold to Rs 40 lakh from the earlier Rs 20 lakh. The governments will also lose due to changes in the GST Composition Scheme, under which small traders and businesses pay a 1 per cent tax based on their turnover. This scheme has also been extended to service providers, up to a turnover of Rs 50 lakh at a tax rate of 6 per cent.
Along with the hike in limit of composition scheme, this decision is estimated to have an annual revenue impact of about Rs 3,000 crore. Issac did not give any break up of the revenue loss but the Rs 7,000 crore, he noted, was the overall figure covering these decisions.
Asked about why the GST threshold limit was not raised to Rs 75 lakh as was deliberated earlier from the Rs 20 lakh stipulated for the MSMEs, he said, “Everybody should be in the tax net. We want more and more in GST trail.”
Assam finance minister Hemant Biswa Sarma has tweeted that the proposal for increasing the threshold limit for GST registration exemption was up to Rs 75 lakh or at least Rs 50 lakh annual turnover but the Congress and AAP ministers resisted it. The doubling of the threshold is expected to benefit around 2 million small traders.
On the real estate issues being referred to the GoM against an expectation of GST rates being brought down to 5 per cent for under-construction flats. Issac said, “There were legal issues on land. Legally, GST cannot be imposed on land. There were practical issues of identifying various types of construction. So it was thought not to hurry the decision.”
The Council did not discuss cement GST rate cut to 18 from 28 per cent this time as states fear an annual loss of Rs 13,000 crore.
Cement under GST is going to cause losses, so it was thought to be out of discussion as of now, the Kerala FM said.
He said a discussion also took place in the Council on the issue of lotteries. However, it was left to a the GoM and then to be taken up for discussion. “But Kerala will never accept this middlemen lottery to come to Kerala,” he added.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley addresses a press conference after the GST meet, at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday. Also seen are revenue secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey and minister of state for finance Shiv Pratap Shukla