Taxed Max: UP Exchequer Has Been Paying I-T Dues of State’s CMs and Ministers for Nearly 40 Years
Law was passed in 1981 when VP Singh was chief minister because ministers were considered too poor to be able to pay taxes with their paltry salaries.
File photo of the Income Tax Building.
Lucknow: If you live in Uttar Pradesh and pay income tax, chances are that apart from your share, you have been unknowingly pitching in for the state ministers as well.
Almost a year after the Supreme Court put an end to the long-established practice of providing free lifelong bungalow facilities to former chief ministers in UP, the state is back in the news for another kind of benevolence bestowed on its lawmakers. A report in The Times of India on Friday pointed out that the income tax incurred by the chief minister and his council of ministers is paid by the treasury.
This one-of-a-kind provision has been in place in the state since 1981, when the Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was passed by the legislative assembly. VP Singh was the chief minister at the time.
Since then, over almost four decades, this provision has been preserved by successive governments. ND Tiwari, Kalyan Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rajnath Singh, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and now Yogi Adityanath: all these chief ministers, and more, as well as their teams have availed this facility. The state has seen around 1,000 ministers benefit from this law over nearly four decades.
A senior government official, who did not wish to be named, said, “The view of the-then chief minister was that most of the ministers came from very humble backgrounds. They had no other means to support them. So, this privilege was extended to them.”
Also, after becoming a part of the council of ministers, a person stops getting salary as member of the legislative assembly or legislative council. Since a minister cannot enjoy any other office of profit, this facility of reducing the income tax burden was provided, said the official.
It’s not just that successive governments led by the BSP, SP and BJP have chosen to persist with this bizarre arrangement. In September 2016, when Akhilesh Yadav was the chief minister, the 1981 legislation was amended to augment the salary and perks of the CM and his cabinet colleagues. However, the new law retained the clause that the income tax incurred by the ministers was to be paid by the state exchequer.
The altered law enhanced the basic salary of the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues to Rs 40,000 per month, while deputy ministers would get Rs 35,000 a month. That apart there is a constituency allowance as well as medical and travel allowances. Everyone from the CM to his ministers gets a free residence, state cars, etc.
Keeping in mind the changed times and the fact that most politicians these days are anything but poor, the government should have scrapped this clause, observers say. However, that has not happened. In fact, when the amendment was passed, the opposition parties at the time, including the BJP, supported the changes on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha.
Right now, the chief minister of UP gets around Rs 1.65 lakh per annum, including the basic salary, DA and other allowances. Some of these grants are taxable while others are not. A minister gets around Rs 1.55 lakh a year.
After News18 picked up the report, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in the state said it would look into the matter. Cabinet minister Shrikant Sharma said, “The provision under question is provided by the Act of 1981. We will take a complete view on it. We will get legal opinion and take a decision accordingly.”
Another senior minister of the Yogi cabinet, who did not wish to be named, said, “This provision needs to go. It is against the principles of the Bharatiya Janata Party.” He also said that he and a few other ministers were paying their own income tax while being in office.
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