Article 92 of the Draft Constitution stated that the union budget would be presented to both houses of parliament: House of People and Council of States. K.T. Shah felt that this provision suggested equality between the two houses of parliament. For Shah, the Lok Sabha, by virtue of representing popular sovereignty was superior of the two.
Matters of finance, Shah continued, should be the Lok Sabha’s exclusive domain by ‘constitutional right and constitutional policy’ and the budget should not be presented to any other institution.
Further, Shah moved an amendment proposing that once the budget was placed before the Lok Sabha, no other institution was ‘competent to make any modifications, addition or alternation in the financial statement or to accept or reject it, in part or in toto.’
He argued that his proposal was nothing new or radical. The Draft Constitution, in any case, gave primacy to the Lok Sabha. The lower house being the ultimate decision-maker in public finance was a well-established principle of parliamentary democracy. He cited the United Kingdom where only the house of commons had authority with regards to public finance.
In what appears to be a concession, Shah moved yet another amendment to allow for the President to invite members of the Rajya Sabha to attend the Lok Sabha during the presentation of the budget. Rajya Sabha members, however, would have no say in the proceedings.
There was no response to Shah and his amendment was rejected by the Assembly. Shah seemed to have erected a straw man: the Draft Constitution, in other provisions, gave primacy to the House of People in matters of finance; A money bill could only originate in the Lok Sabha, and it was only the Lok Sabha that was given the authority to decide upon ‘demands for grants’.
We don’t find a clear rationale in the Assembly debates for presenting the budget to the Rajya Sabha. We can however speculate: the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States (as the name suggests) represented the States and symbolised India’s federal structure. It would, therefore, be important for the Rajya Sabha to be involved, albeit in a junior way, in something as significant as the presentation of the budget.
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