New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday decided that its ministers will start paying their own income taxes, ending a four-decade-old practice of the state exchequer shelling out the amount annually for them.

The announcement came after it came to light that the chief minister and the council of ministers do not dip into their own pockets to pay income tax according to provisions of the UP Ministers’ Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Act, 1981.

The existence of the four-decade-old law, which makes the state government pay the income tax of all ministers, came as a shocker to many. The amount goes to the Income Tax authorities from the state exchequer.

State Finance Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna in a statement on Friday night said the ministers will pay their own income taxes. The income tax bill till now was paid through the state treasury, he said.

The decision has been taken on the directives of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Khanna said.

The chief ministers who saved on their taxes have been from across parties — including Adityanath, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta, Rajnath Singh, Sripati Mishra, Vir Bahadur Singh and ND Tiwari.

For the last financial year, the state government paid Rs 86 lakh as the ministers’ tax bill, a senior finance ministry official said.

“There is an act existing from 1981 during VP Singh’s time. Whatever is being done is in pursuance with that Act,” Uttar Pradesh Power Minister Shrikant Sharma said earlier on Friday, assuring that the government would look into any suggestion about what could be done about it.

A section of the Act says, “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.”

It was argued in 1981 that the state government should bear the income tax burden as most ministers were from poor backgrounds and had meagre incomes, a Congress leader and a colleague of the then chief minister VP Singh said.

But over the years, the state has been led by leaders like Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati who is worth Rs 111 crore as per her affidavit for the Rajya Sabha polls in 2012.

Another former chief minister, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, owns assets worth over Rs 37 crore together with his wife Dimple, according to the affidavit filed for the recent Lok Sabha polls.

According to the affidavit submitted for the Legislative Council elections in 2017, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s assets total Rs 95,98,053.

Senior Congress leader and former MP PL Punia said the provision doesn’t seem right and needs review. “The salaries have gone up several times and there appears to be no relevance for this relaxation. It needs reconsideration and withdrawal,” Punia, who was principal secretary to Mayawati when she was chief minister, said.

Many like BSP leader and former UP finance minister Lalji Verma said they were not aware of the law. Verma said as far he remembers he used to pay his own taxes.

Social activist Anil Kumar said the news is a shocker for the common man who pays large sums in taxes. “Why should he bear the burden of those who have all the benefits. Like all of us, they should also pay for themselves instead of putting an extra burden on us,” Kumar asked.

(With inputs from PTI)

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