On Thursday, TOI had reported about the law that put the tax burden of the CM and his council of ministers on the state exchequer as they are deemed to be “poor” and “cannot pay income tax from their own meagre earnings”. The law, Uttar Pradesh Ministers’ Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Act, 1981, was enacted when V P Singh was chief minister.
UP has witnessed 19 chief ministers — including Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party, Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh of BJP and ND Tiwari of Congress — since the law was enacted. There have been nearly 1,000 ministers since then.
While many of them, going by the affidavits they file during elections, own movable and immovable assets worth crores of rupees and love flashing their wealth by acquiring swanky SUVs, it is the state, ranked among the poorer ones, which picks up the tax bill.
On Friday, Yogi telephoned finance minister Suresh Khanna, who also holds parliamentary affairs and medical education portfolios, and asked him to prepare a proposal for cabinet approval before tabling it in assembly. “The chief minister directed scrapping of all archaic laws. After a detailed discussion, he asked me to quickly draft a proposal for cabinet nod. We will not bear the sins of the Congress government,” Khanna told TOI.
The move to revisit the 38-year-old law followed outrage within the government and outside about how wealthy ministers deemed to be “poor” were shifting their tax burden on the common man.
In 1981, while getting the Uttar Pradesh Ministers’ Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Bill 1981 passed by the vidhan sabha, VP Singh had told the House that the state government should bear the income tax burden as most ministers were from poor backgrounds and had meagre incomes.
A section of the Act says, “Every minister and minister of state shall be entitled, throughout term of his office, to a salary of one thousand rupees per month. Every deputy minister shall be entitled, throughout the term of his office, to a salary of six hundred and fifty rupees per month.
“The salary referred to in sub-sections (1) and (2) shall be exclusive of the tax payable in respect of such salary (including perquisites) under any law relating to income tax for the time being in force, and such tax shall be borne by the state government.”
Even members of the Yogi government have had their income tax deposited from the state treasury in the last two financial years. This financial year, the income tax bill of Adityanath and his council of ministers was around Rs 86 lakh and was paid from the state treasury.
UP principal secretary (finance) Sanjiv Mittal confirmed to TOI that income tax bills of the CM and his council of ministers were paid by the state government as mandated under the 1981 Act.
UP minister and government spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said the 1981 law could be revisited if all legislators support the move. Another cabinet minister Srikant Sharma told TOI the chief minister is determined to repeal obsolete laws, which are a baggage of earlier regimes.
At least three cabinet ministers in the Yogi government had sought repeal of the controversial provision in the forthcoming special assembly session from October 1 as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
A former minister in the Congress government, Ram Krishna Dwivedi, described this provision as immoral and against constitutional propriety. He wanted it scrapped immediately.
Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajput said the income tax buffer for ministers may have been justifiable 40 years ago when they would get a paltry monthly salary of Rs 1,000, but now chief ministers and the ministers have assets worth crores of rupees. “If their income tax is being paid by the state government, it’s criminal,” he said.