ED Can Arrest You Without Bail, AAP Warns Traders; Atishi Clashes With Sitharaman at GST Council Meet

Aam Aadmi Party's strategic position is another attempt to chip away at the support of the trading community, who are believed to be staunch supporters of the BJP. (PTI/File)

Aam Aadmi Party’s strategic position is another attempt to chip away at the support of the trading community, who are believed to be staunch supporters of the BJP. (PTI/File)

Sensing an opportunity to woo the trading community away from BJP, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has demanded a withdrawal of the amendment that brought the GST Network under the ambit of money laundering provisions

AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday expressed solidarity with the trading community across India, tweeting against the BJP-led central government’s move to allow the Enforcement Directorate to share information with the GST Network (GSTN).

The party’s strategic position is another attempt to chip away at the support of the trading community, who are believed to be staunch supporters of the BJP and stuck to the saffron party in the national capital through the AAP waves in 2015 and 2020.

GSTN handles the technology backbone of the indirect tax regime and is the repository of all GST-related information, including return, tax filing and other compliances. As per the amendment to the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, GSTN has been included in the list of entities with which ED will share information.

“A big section of traders do not comply with GST — some unknowingly and some knowingly. A few days ago, the central government brought GSTN also into the ambit of Enforcement Directorate which means that if a trader does not submit GST, then ED can arrest that person directly and even bail will be denied,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

Terming the move “very dangerous”, Kejriwal said that instead of focusing on their business, traders would be busy saving themselves from the Enforcement Directorate. Raising an alarm, he said the country’s small traders would come within the ambit of the law and “no one would be spared”.

Kejriwal’s tweet had come ahead of the 50th meeting of the GST Council chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday.

According to AAP sources, at the meeting, Delhi Finance Minister Atishi and Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Cheema opposed the central government’s move in the GST meeting, leading to an exchange of words with Nirmala Sitharaman.

Speaking to News18, AAP minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said: “I think the central government is creating a new tool to harass the businessmen in this country. PMLA was designed basically to check terrorism funding, to check drug cartels. It was not meant for common man. If somebody does a mistake in GST filing, which can be done by anybody because GST is so complicated, you can’t book them under PMLA. You can’t throw them in jail until they prove themselves innocent. This is totally wrong. This was not the intention of parliamentarians when they brought in PMLA. It is just an exercise to silence all the individuals who have started questioning the central government.”

“The BJP believes that through polarization, they would be able to manage the trading community. But I don’t think it is possible. If you hurt their living, if you threaten their life and liberty, they would be very annoyed with the central government,” he added.

On whether the AAP sees an opportunity in this, Bhardwaj said: “We don’t see any opportunity here. What we believe is that this is totally illegal and it should be stopped.”

In November last year, the government had allowed the ED to share information about economic offenders with 15 more agencies, including SFIO, CCI and NIA. Following that notification, the ED, which deals primarily with cases of money laundering and violations of foreign exchange laws, was allowed to share data with a total of 25 agencies, including the 10 specified earlier.

The list also includes CBI, RBI, Sebi, IRDAI, Intelligence Bureau, and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), among others. With the addition of GSTN, the list of entities now stands at 26.

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