On 23 March, Lok Sabha has passed the Finance Bill 2020, without any discussion at an all-party meeting convened by Speaker Om Birla, as the House curtailed its sittings in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Subsequently, citing the deadly outbreak of COVID-19, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, stated that it was an ‘extraordinary situation’ and that a decision to pass the bill without any discussion was taken at the all-party meeting.
The Finance Bill 2020, includes more than 40 amendments with further effects to the central government’s financial and tax proposals for the fiscal year 2020-21. Meanwhile, opposition parties insisted on the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to announce the government’s response to their demand for a financial package to deal with the coronavirus impact on businesses and livelihoods. Some opposition members interrupted the voting on specific amendments to the Bill proposed by Sitharaman to insist that a package be announced before the Bill is cleared.
However, the Speaker Om Birla asserted that “I have met leaders of the floor. All leaders, keeping in mind the country’s current situation, have agreed to pass the Finance Bill without discussion.”
The Finance Bill proposed a more progressive personal income tax rate for people who do not avail of any tax incentives, extended the option of a 15% corporate tax rate without tax incentives for electricity producers and made dividends taxable in the hands of the recipient. Earlier, companies had to pay a 15% dividend distribution tax. The Bill also had a controversial proposal regarding tax residence which raised the fear that several non-resident Indians will be affected.
Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die after the passage of the Finance Bill since the Budget Session was scheduled to end on April 3.
The Budget Session was divided into two phases. The first phase began on January 31 and ended on February 11. The second phase, which commenced on March 2, was to conclude on April 3. Thus, before adjourning the proceedings, sine die, Speaker Om Birla emphasized the need for social distancing and work on efforts to tackle the pandemic.