The passage of the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill for Rs 89.25 lakh crore, along with amendments, without discussion and in just 30 minutes last week marked a new low in the functioning of parliament. One most important function of parliament is to authorise and exercise oversight over the raising of revenue by the government and the release of grants to its departments for expenditure. Parliamentary democracy originated from people’s demand for control over the income and expenditure of the government through their representatives. The Modi government rammed the budget through the legislature without any discussion and with just a voice vote, using the disruption of proceedings by the opposition as an excuse. Not only were very important items of expenditure, including the whopping hike in the salaries of the President, governors and MPs, were approved without a debate, the Modi government even sneaked in a dangerous provision on foreign funding for political parties.
There is a provision for guillotining of the budget in special situations. It has been done in the past but only rarely. The time spent on budget discussions has been going down every year. Though some parts of the budget used to be passed without discussion every year for lack of time or for other reasons, it is for the first time that a full budget is guillotined. There was no justification for this, especially when there were three weeks left in the budget session. It showed that the government was not interested in restoring peace and order in the House and facilitating a discussion. Opposition parties also seemed not to be particularly unhappy with the government’s attitude though they criticised it outside the House. Parliament is the best forum for decision-making and consensus-building and should not be made dysfunctional. The budget that was passed last week may be legal, but it lacks democratic legitimacy.
It is primarily the government’s responsibility to ensure that parliament is convened in time, functions normally and does its legislative work. But the NDA government did not make any effort to reach out to the opposition to put an end to the disruption of parliament. Instead, it bypassed parliament and flouted rules and conventions, as it did in 2016, too, when it got the Aadhaar Bill passed by the Lok Sabha by wrongly presenting it as a ‘money bill’. Since then, it has become even more brazen. The Representation of People’s Act barred political parties from accepting foreign funds for obvious reasons. In Finance Bill 2016, the Modi government amended the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to make it easier for parties to accept foreign funds. This time, it has amended it further to do away with any scrutiny of a political party’s funding since 1976. Quite clearly, the government’s intention in doing so is not honourable.
via Finance bill: govt’s intention suspect