Apart from mentioning the authority behind the presentation of the Union Budget and the where it would be presented, Draft Article 92 did one more important thing: it divided expenditure into two categories. The first would be charged directly to the consolidated fund of India and would be immune to a parliamentary vote, these included expenses related to salaries of constitutional functionaries like the President of India, Judges of the Supreme Court and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The second category of expenses would be charged to regular revenue account and parliament had the power to vote and alter these expenses.
A parliament of independent India, K.T. Shah argued, must in principle have the power to vote on any expenditure. He said that the idea of keeping certain expenditure outside the ambit of a parliamentary vote was the legacy of the British rule:
“For that regime, no doubt, it can be understood that there were many items of expenditure which it did not care, would not dare, to bring before the representatives of the Indian people. For instance, its huge defence expenditure, or its Home charges, and so on, if open to a Parliamentary vote, would never allow the Budget to be passed.”
Draft Article 92 also gave parliament the power to add more elements of expenditure that could be charged to the consolidated fund of India. Shah argued that if the Constitution was a ‘restrictive instrument’ and wanted some elements of expenditure to be kept out of party politics and a parliamentary vote – the number of these items must be kept as small as possible. Responding to an amendment moved by H.V. Kamath, to add salaries and allowances of ministers and members of parliament to the non-votable list, Shibban Lal Saxen agreed with Shah on not giving parliament the power to expand the list of items on which a vote was not required:
“..I agree that we are bringing in a dangerous thing in the Constitution by these provisions. I wholeheartedly support the amendment of Prof. Shah for deleting the last clause, which says that parliament can declare any expenditure to be non-votable. This, I think, is unprecedented in any constitution.I feel that the sovereign parliament of the nation should have the right vote on every item of expenditure. I can see some argument for making the salaries of the Judges of the Supreme Court, the Auditor-General and the Speaker to be charged to the revenues of the State. It is possible that a party in power by a majority might vote down the salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court so that the judges will try to humour the party in power and that will detract from their independence. But this is far-fetched and no party dare vote down salaries of Supreme Court Judges, etc. That the salaries of the other people should also be permitted to become non-votable is not fair…”
With this intervention, the Constituent Assembly decided to vote on this Bill. In the IIIrd, and last, post in this series on the presentation of the budget, we will look at the final decision of the Assembly on Draft Article 92. The Ist post in this series, on the debate around who and where the budget should be presented was posted on 15th Feb 2018.