The budget session of parliament is underway; the session began with the Union Finance Minister – Arun Jaitley presenting the Union budget to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on the 1st of February; Article 112 of the Constitution of India mandates that the President of India shall present the ‘annual financial statement’ to both houses of parliament.
The Constituent Assembly took up Article 112 – Article 92 of the Draft Constitution, 1948 - for discussion on the 8th and 10th of June 1949. K.T. Shah, an economist and active member of the Assembly, was not satisfied with Draft Article 92 and moved a series of amendments to change its form and substance.
Shah proposed that the Draft Article explicitly mention ‘Finance Minister’ as the authority behind the budget; the Article only mentioned the President of India. Shah acknowledged that the Constituent Assembly had previously decided that all executive action – the presentation of the union budget being one of them - would be conducted in the name of the President. However, he argued that ‘…it does not still seem to be appropriate that, in this matter, the President should be made to figure as the authority for getting the Budget presented to Parliament..’
Shah believed that the Finance Minister, by virtue of being closely involved in financial administration, was the real authority behind the presentation of the budget. Further, Shah was concerned that not mentioning the Finance Minister in the text of the Draft Article gave room for someone other than the Finance Minister to present the budget.
The Draft Article called for the union budget to be presented to both houses of parliament: Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. This, K.T. Shah argued, suggested equality between the two houses on matters finance which he opposed -
‘..in as much as the financial supremacy of the People's House should, in my opinion, be asserted categorically, and no room left for any sense of equality between the two Chambers so far as matters of finance are concerned. As the article stands, it suggests a position of equality between the two Houses of Parliament in financial matters’
While the Rajya Sabha could be kept informed about the ‘annual financial statement’, Shah said, it is only the Lok Sabha that ‘…As a matter of constitutional right and constitutional requirement or policy’ should be concerned with finance; the budget should not be presented in the Rajya Sabha. Shah later, in what seems like an attempt at a concession, moved an amendment to allow for the President to invite members of the Rajya Sabha to attend the Lok Sabha during the presentation of the budget, but not have any say in the proceedings.
In the next post in this series on the presentation of the budget, we look at the debate around the second important aspect of Draft Article 92 – the division of expenditure into two categories: the consolidated fund of India and the regular revenue account. And in the last post of the series, we discuss the decision on the amendments proposed.