New Delhi, January 24, 2017

Sweeping aside objections raised by opposition parties, the government had decided to present the Union Budget on February 1.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition seeking postponement of Union budget date due to upcoming elections in five states. Dismissing the petition, a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said that the budget can presented as scheduled as there is no illustration to support that the presentation of Union Budget would influence voters’ mind in state elections.

The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, did not grant opportunity to lawyer M L Sharma, who had filed the PIL in personal capacity, to come back to it if the Centre violated the model code of conduct in its budget, to be presented on February one.

Referring to constitutional provisions, the court said there are clear divisions of subjects, Union, State and concurrent, in the Constitution and the presentation of Union budget cannot be dependant on state polls “which keep happening.”

It was not impressed with the arguments that the Centre may announce sops for the voters of the states going for polls in the budget, saying “Your argument is absurd. This way you will say the party in power at Centre should not contest state polls”.

The bench did not agree with the submission that in the past, Centre had postponed presentation of budget due to assembly polls.

The PIL has said the Centre be directed to present the Budget in the financial year 2017-18 which would commence from April 1, instead of the proposed February 1 date.

It has also said the government be restrained from declaring “any relief, programme, financial budget until the states’ elections are over” as they would violate the Model Code of Conduct.

Sweeping aside objections raised by opposition parties, the government had decided to present the Union Budget on February 1. Opposition parties including Congress and TMC had approached the Election Commission against presentation of the Budget just hours before the first of the five states goes to poll on February 4. But the government stoutly defended the move.

According to the scheme drawn, the first part of the Budget Session of Parliament will start on January 31 with President Pranab Mukherjee’s address and tabling of the Economic Survey, which sets the scene for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s fourth annual budget. The Budget will be presented the next day.

The Cabinet had in September last year decided to scrap nearly century-long practice of having a separate railway budget and instead merged it with the general budget. It had also decided to scrap a distinction between plan and non-plan expenditures.

[The Indian Express]