Impasse over GST can't be resolved politically, will require judicial pronouncement:Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi, Oct 5: Former President Pranab Mukherjee Friday said he feels that the impasse over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) cannot be resolved politically and the top court will have to be involved at some point.
Delivering the 16th V K Krishna Menon Memorial Lecture on the topic 'Sovereignty, International Law and Diplomacy' here, Mukherjee said by accepting the GST, the Centre and states have surrendered their "sovereign rights" over imposing excise duty and sales duty respectively over certain items.
"In India, a debate is going on GST. What is GST? To some extent, the 29 state units and Union Territories have surrendered their taxation authorities, certain subjects mentioned in state list of seventh schedule of the Constitution. Government of India has surrendered its sovereignty with regard to the imposition of taxes with regard to the excise duty which was the exclusive domain of the Centre which was at one point of time a major chunk of tax revenue to India," he said.
"While accepting GST, the Government of India is surrendering its sovereign authority in imposing excise duty and states their authority of sales tax over certain items. I do feel that the matter cannot be resolved finally politically, but through some extend legal guidance or pronouncement from the highest court would be required at some point of time," he said.
The former president also said that sovereignty should be used in a flexible manner by the countries for common gains by actively associating with international organisations. Mukherjee, however, said the countries will have to concede some of their sovereign rights to others in order to acquire certain benefits. "Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), European Union (EU) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the three major trading blocs, and if we analyse them, we will find that all the member countries to some extent have surrendered their sovereign rights to acquire the common benefit from the others," he said.
"The sovereignty of the state should be used in a flexible manner by actively participating in international organisations for receiving common gains. The importance of role of international organisations which are at the utmost level trying to promote cooperation between the states.
In this respect almost all sovereign states have conceded to others some of these so called sovereign rights in order to acquire facilities," Mukherjee added. Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, who presided over the function, said sovereignty may not have the same meaning now as it had four to five decades ago, "particularly considering the globalisation" as a fact of life.
"Over the years, we have seen the growth of European Union and today saw England walking out of it partly because it believes that its sovereignty is compromised," Justice Lokur said. He also pointed out the instances of strengthened economic sanctions being imposed on certain countries that do not "adhere the mandate" of other economically powerful countries.
"In other words sovereignty cannot be understood in a purely legalistic manner but sovereignty or loss of sovereignty could have different shades depending upon circumstances. It is in this context that I believe that today's memorial lecture could enlighten all of us," Justice Lokur said.