Expressing her concern over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) roll-out, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said that the rules contain a draconian arrest clause, adding it would hamper small and medium businesses.
"I am shocked to find that the GST rules contain a rather draconian arrest clause which can lead to major harassment of business, particularly the small and medium, with some sections even being non-bailable too," Banerjee said in a Facebook post.
She further stated that under the current value-added tax (VAT) regime, the field officials of the State do not have the power to make arrests.
"At the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, India won her freedom. Now, at the midnight of June 30, 2017, freedom and democracy stand to face grave danger," she added.
Banerjee further said that if there is a serious tax offence, then an FIR has to be filed and the due process of law will be followed.
"But in the case of the GST, the Inspectors will have the power to arrest on four different types of offences which can lead to jail from one year up to five years. West Bengal opposed this arrest clause in the GST Council but the Government of India did not pay any heed," she added.
The West Bengal Chief Minister further said that it is a deep concern that the arrest clause in GST may well be used to target business leaders who raise their voice of dissent on any policy matter or any practices.
"I am afraid, from the midnight of today, will darkness loom large in the lives of entrepreneurs and common people?" Banerjee questioned.
Ahead of the historic rollout of the GST that is scheduled to take effect from midnight, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu earlier in the day urged the Congress Party to 'realise and rethink' their stand and join the government for the midnight Parliament session.
The GST, which is slated to roll out today midnight, will bring the Indian economy under a single tax bracket.