The Punjab Legislative Assembly on Friday unanimously passed a bill to dissolve the state vigilance commission, set up two years ago by the Congress government.
Chief Minister (CM) Bhagwant Mann, while tabling the Punjab State Vigilance Commission (Abolition) Bill, 2022, said the main function of the commission is to inquire into or initiate inquiries into complaints against public servants under the Act the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018, however, it has failed to serve any useful purpose other than being a burden on the exchequer.
“There are multiple agencies in the state, including the state vigilance department, to deal with corruption cases. Therefore, to avoid overlaps, contradictory findings, resulting delays and gaps in communication, it has become necessary to repeal the Punjab State Vigilance Commission Act, 2020 (Punjab Act No. 20 of 2020),” the CM announced in The House, adding that the decision was taken in the greater public interest.
He added that the state commission, established on November 13, 2020, was supposed to function on the lines of the Central Awakening Commission, but had serious deviations.
For the second time, the commission is dissolved.
The State Vigilance Commission was first formed in October 2006 during the Congress regime. However, soon after assuming power, the SAD-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal dissolved it in March 2007.
Following this, the commission was reconstituted in November 2020. Interestingly, Captain Amarinder Singh headed the government on both occasions when the state vigilance commission was passed by the state assembly.
The Captain Amarinder Singh government appointed Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, (retired) of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as the head of the commission in April 2021, and his tenure was to end in April 2026. Once the governor has given his assent, the post and office will cease to exist.
Punjab Goods and Services Tax Amended
The Legislative Assembly also passed the Punjab Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2022. Finance, Planning, Excise and Taxation Minister Harpal Singh Cheema tabled the bill which was passed by a majority.
Talking about the importance of the amendments in the bill, Chema said that tax evaders will be dealt with with a strict hand. “To check the menace of false invoicing and false income tax certificates, Section 16 of the Act has been amended to empower the state government,” he added.
“To facilitate operations, the time period for availing ITC has been extended to the thirtieth day of November following the end of the financial year in which the supply is made,” he informed, adding that Section 39 has been amended to make the Act more practical.
The Finance Minister said that for ease of doing business, Section 50 has been retrospectively amended to limit the levy of interest only on the misused and utilized ITC.
He further added that Section 54 has been amended to provide that the time period for claiming such refund shall be two years from the submission of the return to direct the refund to the SEZ unit or developer.
Amendments to the Law on Village Common Lands
The House also passed the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulations) Act, 1961. According to the amendment, the land ownership rights of jumla mustarka malkan (common village land) will belong to the village panchayat.