“Sikkimese sentiments have been hurt,” said Joint Action Council’s President Shanta Pradhan. Addressing a press conference in state capital Gangtok Pradhan said that inspite of the assurance of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that rights and privileges of the Sikkimese people will be preserved, the recently passed Finance bill has diluted the Sikkimese term by expanding the definition of the word Sikkimese.
The Lower House of Parliament, Lok Sabha has passed the Finance Bill 2023 with 64 official amendments on Saturday without any discussion. The Bill was tabled in Parliament on February 1, 2023, by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Among other proposed amendments, the Bill aims to amend Section 10 Clause 26AAA of the Finance Act, which would extend Income Tax exemptions to the Sikkimese people. The term “Sikkimese” refers to individuals who meet any of the following criteria:
(i) their name is recorded in the Register of Sikkim Subjects maintained under the Sikkim Subjects Regulation, 1961, read with the Sikkim Subject Rules, 1961, before April 26, 1975;
(ii) their name is included in the Register of Sikkim Subjects by virtue of the Government of India Order No. 26030/36/90-I.C.I., dated August 7, 1990, and Order of even number dated April 8, 1991;
(iii) their name does not appear in the Register of Sikkim Subjects, but it is established beyond doubt that their father, husband, paternal grandfather, or brother from the same father has been recorded in that register;
(iv) their name does not appear in the Register of Sikkim Subjects, but it is established that they were domiciled in Sikkim on or before April 26, 1975; or
(v) they were not domiciled in Sikkim on or before April 26, 1975, but it is established beyond doubt that their father, husband, paternal grandfather, or brother from the same father was domiciled in Sikkim on or before April 26, 1975.
The last two clauses are newly added in the new finance bill.
Pradhan also stated that a memorandum has been submitted to Chief Minister PS Golay requesting the state government to issue a notification to stop the further dilution of Sikkim’s special clause of the constitution, Article371(f) or pass a resolution in the assembly demanding the same.
He further added that IT exemption could have been granted to the old settlers without expanding the definition of Sikkimese term. “We are stunned and suprised at this development even after assurances given by Union Home and Finance minister,” he expressed.
JAC will now submit the memorandum to all MLA, MPs, Government and Presidents of all political parties demanding protection of Article 371(f).
Duk Nath Nepal of JAC has further criticised that historical evidences have been ignored while expanding the term of Sikkimese.
He also questioned the government on remaining silent while old laws of Sikkim is slowly being diluted duly protected by Article 371(f) of the Indian constitution.
DR Thapa, State BJP President and MLA also suggested the government to immediately form a committee to ensure protection of Article 371(f) of the constitution which accords special rights and privileges to Sikkim and Sikkimese people.
He further said that expansion of Sikkimese term is a concern although the party welcomes IT exemption to the old settlers of Sikkim.
In the recently held day long budget session of the state assembly, Thapa raised the issues while the house was discussing the fourth supplementary grant.
Nitesh R Pradhan
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