Despite concerns raised by Opposition parties, Modi government’s decision to announce Union Budget 2017 at an early date on February 1 has received a go-ahead from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea seeking postponement of Union Budget presentation ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in five states, saying there was no illustration that it would influence voters.
An SC bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar 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”. The apex court also did not grant opportunity to lawyer M L Sharma, who had filed the PIL in his personal capacity, to come back to it if the Centre violated the model code of conduct in its budget, to be presented on February 1.
Earlier, the Election Commission of India (EC) had also refused to entertain the Opposition’s objection to the Budget presentation on February 1. The Opposition had raised its objection to the Budget presentation on February 1 after the EC announced the dates of Assembly elections in five states starting from February 4.
The EC, however, has issued some don’t which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would have to adhere to during the budget presentation. Such as,
a) In the interest of free and fair elections and in order to maintain level playing field during the election, Modi government cannot announce any state-specific scheme which may influence the voters in five poll-bound states in favour of the ruling party at the Centre.
b) Jaitley would have to ensure that Budget speech doesn’t highlight government’s achievements in the poll-bound states in any way.
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While justifying the presentation of Budget on TFebruary 1, SC had said, there are 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 apex court refused to accept the opposition’s argument that Modi government 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 top court also did not agree with the submission that in the past, Centre had postponed presentation of the 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.
(Inputs from PTI)