On 5 July 2019, the Finance Minister of India, will present the Union Budget to the Lok Sabha. Article 112, Constitution of India, 1950 (Article 92), Draft Constitution of India 1948) directs the President of India to present the ‘annual financial statement’ to both houses of parliament.
The Constituent Assembly took up Draft Article 92 for discussion on the 8th and 10th, June 1949. K.T. Shah, an economist and active member of the Assembly, was not satisfied with the Draft Article and moved a series of amendments to change its form and substance.
He wanted the Draft Article to explicitly state that the ‘Finance Minister’ under the ‘authority of the President’ would present the budget. Shah argued that if he had his way, he would make no mention of the President at all.
The Assembly previously decided that all executive action would be conducted under the authority of the President - Shah acknowledged this. 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...’. He believed that the Finance Minister, by virtue of being closely involved in financial administration, was the real authority.
Shah saw something bigger at stake in mentioning the Finance Minister in the Draft Article: ‘it involves a great principle of Parliamentary democracy and responsible government in as much as it excludes the executive head from taking part even by implication in matters of this kind.’ He felt that this was a separation of powers issue viz a viz the executive and the legislature.
Further, Shah suggested that by not specifically mentioning the finance minister, the Draft Article gave room to other individuals to present the budget in the future.
There was no direct response to Shah from other Assembly members. However, when his amendment came up for voting, the Assembly rejected it.