Fast-track lawmaking: Guillotine on budget debates happen far too often

In 2019, of Budget heads totalling Rs 27.86 trillion, 80% (worth Rs 22.28 trillion) were guillotined.
Parliament’s Budget session for 2004-05 had set an unbecoming precedent: 100% of the Budget of Rs 4.8 trillion was passed without discussion, using the guillotine, a parliamentary procedure to fast-track lawmaking. This was repeated in the 2013-14 Budget session, and then again in the 2018-19 Budget session. In 2019, of Budget heads totalling Rs 27.86 trillion, 80% (worth Rs 22.28 trillion) were guillotined.

 

Each year, the Lok Sabha Business Advisory Committee, which includes leaders of various parties, takes up five of the 52 ministries for discussion. The remaining are voted upon on the last day of the Budget session without discussion, or guillotined.

 

The five ministries included for discussion in 2019 were the road transport and highways, agriculture and farmers’ welfare, rural development, youth affairs and sports, and railways. “Ministries that are taken up for discussion (their Budget allocation) in the Lok Sabha aren't debated in the Rajya Sabha,” said an administrative official from the Business Advisory Committee in parliament. “Due to the lack of time, no more than five ministries can be discussed.”

 

Furthermore, additional funds required by the government, called “supplementary demands for grants”, are never scrutinised by any parliamentary standing committees, as Bills and demands for grants in the annual budget are. These demands are only analysed ex-post facto by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which consists of selected members of Parliament who scrutinise audit reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

 

“Parliament does not spend enough time discussing demands for grants, and the situation is worse in state legislatures,” said Avani Kapur, director, Accountability Initiative, a research organisation based in Delhi. “Limited discussion, lack of research support for the MPs is a problem.” 

Data and text: Indiaspend



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