Economy

Supreme Court Rejects Plea to Reschedule Budget After Assembly Elections

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is all set to present the budget on February 1, despite opposition that it may affect polls. Credit: Reuters/Files

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is all set to present the budget on February 1, despite opposition that it may affect polls. Credit: Reuters/Files

The Supreme Court said on January 23 that the budget session scheduled for February 1 would not be rescheduled, presenting a major setback for the opposition. In August 2016, the government had announced that the budget will be presented on February 1 rather than the usual February 28. The election commission had, on January 4, come out with the schedule for assembly elections in five states.

The ruling was in response to a petition filed by M.L. Sharma, an advocate, who was concerned that the budget session would influence voters in the upcoming elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur if populist measures were announced, which would break the model code of conduct. According to India Today, the Supreme Court however said,  “There is no illustration to support that the presentation of the union budget would influence the voters’ mind in state elections,”

Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, who headed the bench, refused to admit the plea, saying, “there was not even a single concrete example that the presentation of union budget would influence the minds of electorate in state elections”.

Referring to constitutional provisions, the court said there is a clear divisions of subjects – Union, state and concurrent – in the constitution and the presentation of union budget cannot be dependent on state polls “which keep happening.”

The court was not impressed with the argument that the Centre may announce sops for the voters in the states going to polls, 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, the Centre had postponed the presentation of the budget due to assembly polls.

In 2012 however, according to India Today, the BJP, along with other opposition parties, had objected to the UPA government presenting the budget during assembly elections. The session had then been rescheduled to March 16 from February 28.

(with PTI inputs)