Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the decisions taken by the GST Council are merely recommendations with “persuasive value” and are not binding.
GST as an advisory body:
- The court has rejected the Centre’s contention that the entire structure of GST would crumble if the Council’s decisions were not treated as enforceable.
- In some ways, the verdict states the obvious.
- Article 246-A inserted after the 122nd constitutional amendment states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in articles 246 and 254, Parliament, and, subject to clause (2), the Legislature of every state, have the power to make laws with respect to the GST imposed by the Union or by such state.”
- Thus, the power to levy the central GST (CGST) vests with Parliament, the power to levy state GST (SGST) vests with state legislatures and Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to the GST on items that are part of inter-state trade or commerce.
- Thus, the GST Council is only an advisory body and the actual decisions regarding model GST levies, will have to be taken by either Parliament in the case of CGST and IGST or the states in the case of SGST.
- The judgment paves the way for more intensive bargaining and negotiations, placing states on an equal footing with the Centre in taking decisions on the structure and operations of the tax.
- At present, decisions get approved in the GST Council when passed by a majority of three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present and voting, with the Centre having one-third weight and individual states (and UTs) having an equal share of the remaining two-thirds weight.
- However, in the past, all decisions in the Council have been taken by consensus (except in the case of determining the rate on lotteries), and the Supreme Court decision reinforces this convention.
- The immediate impact of this will be bargaining by states for extending the period of compensation for the loss of revenue.
- This has come at a time when reforms have to be set in motion and hopefully, the Court’s decision will strengthen the cooperative spirit in reforming the domestic consumption tax system in the country.
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