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2 bills to ease doing business get Rajya Sabha nod

The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and amendment of certain provisions) Bill replaces an ordinance

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday cleared two key Bills—one giving extra time for various statutory compliances in view of the coronavirus pandemic and the other decriminalizing technical breaches of the company law into civil offences.

The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and amendment of certain provisions) Bill, 2020, replaces an ordinance issued on 31 March this year for deferring due dates for compliance for both direct and indirect taxes and as well as for two dispute resolution schemes Vivad se Vishwas and Sabka Vishwas, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the upper House, explaining the goals of the bill.

Extra time for meeting compliance requirements, which fell in the lockdown period, will ensure people are not put to any hardship, the minister said.

In addition to the provisions in the ordinance, the bill also includes clauses to facilitate scaling up of the income tax-faceless assessment scheme announced by the Prime Minister in August.

The Rajya Sabha also passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2020, which decriminalizes company law offences and allows direct foreign listing of companies.

Direct listing of securities by Indian companies in select foreign markets is likely to help startups tap overseas markets for raising capital if they perceive that there may not be enough risk appetite among domestic investors. Improving the ease of doing business is a key objective of the bill. Both the bills were passed by Lok Sabha earlier.

Out of the 61 amendments proposed in the bill, 48 are aimed at making procedural and technical lapses of company law into civil offences while the remaining are aimed at making life easier for producer organizations.

Producer organizations are a class of entities that have relevance in the agrarian economy and engage in activities such as procurement, production and harvesting.

Sitharaman said she had earlier announced the plan of setting up 10,000 farmer producer organizations which will have a rural impact. The provisions in the bill make life easier for them.

The minister said 35 specified offences of a serious nature under the Companies Act will continue as non-compoundable offences. “Thirty-five of them from 2013 (when current Companies Act was enacted) remain 35 even today because we are not giving an opportunity for fraud, deceit or injuring public interest to go away with smaller punishments," the minister said.

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