Re­in­stated CBI chief Verma fired again, Con­gress cries foul

Thomas Is­sac slams ex­emp­tion limit hike for MSMEs, com­po­si­tion scheme ex­ten­sion

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - AN­JANA DAS

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

Thomas Is­sac

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