Chidambaram hopes for debate on Finance Bill in Rajya Sabha

With the Finance Bill and the various demands for grants of the various ministries sailing through the Lok Sabha without a debate, finance minister P Chidambaram today expressed the hope that the opposition will take interest in the budgetary exercise for fiscal 2013-14 at least in the Rajya Sabha.

The Finance Bill that steered clear of wealth tax impost on agricultural land and exempted Railways from payment of service tax for the period between 1 July 2012 and 1 October 2012, was passed without the usual debate after the opposition walked out.

''I hope the Finance Bill is debated in the Rajya Sabha and not passed in a similar manner,'' Chidambaram said, after the House declared the Finance Bill and other demands for grants passed.

Moving the Finance Bill for voting, Chidambaram also introduced an amendment to wealth tax impost because of the prevailing apprehensions over whether wealth tax will apply to agriculture land.

''There was apprehension that wealth tax was being imposed on agricultural land. Let me make it absolutely clear that the policy of the UPA government is not to impose wealth tax on agriculture land,'' he said.

The amendments were introduced in the light of the rulings by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chidambaram said, adding that he had worked hard to prepare an amendment and obtain President's approval for it.

The opposition staged a walk-out in the Lok Sabha after speaker Meira Kumar announced that the money bills would be passed without discussion, as decided by leaders of parties at a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee yesterday.

A discussion on the budget was to be taken up on 23 April, but since much time has been wasted on other issues, it had been decided that the money bills would be rushed through as, "under the prevailing circumstances there is very limited time for completion of the financial business.''

A meeting of the business advisory committee on Monday decided that the ''Finance Bill, Appropriations Bills, Demand for Grants and the Rail Budget may be passed without discussion."

The various opposition parties, however, had different reasons for leaving the House. The BJP, which had agreed not to vote against the money bills did not support the bill as well by not participating in the voting.

The BJP walked out over the coal mine allotment scandal while the Left, BJD and the AIADMK walked out in protest against the passage of important bills without a debate.

The DMK also demanded removal of Congress MP P C Chacko who sealed the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) report on the coal scam.