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Dear Government, Passing Money Bills Without Discussion Isn’t Cool

In a matter of 30 minutes, 99 funding demands from govt departments were passed in the LS  without discussion.

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Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

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If there’s one underpinning principle that guides parliaments across the world, it is informed debate and dissent within the confines of reason. It is here that matters of national and international consequences are deliberated and solutions to pressing issues are arrived at.

But India’s ruling dispensation sought to turn this very principle on its head on 13 March 2018, when over 99 funding demands from government departments, 218 amendments, the Finance Bill 2018 and the Appropriation Bill were passed in a matter of 30 minutes without any debate in the Lok Sabha.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan employed a procedure known as the ‘Guillotine’ which allows the chair to pass all outstanding demands at one go, irrespective of whether they’ve been discussed or not.

The ‘guillotine’ however, can only be used on the last day of the period prescribed for discussions on the demands for grants. The process brings all outstanding funding demands to be put under vote for the explicit purpose of getting the passed at one go. Once the process is used, all pending demands must be voted on without any discussion.

To be fair to Mahajan, the house witnessed repeated disruptions over the PNB scam, allotment of Special Category status to Andhra Pradesh. But approving decisions on where and how the government spends without discussion and especially through voice vote, doesn’t bode well for a parliment.

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Among the demands passed were

  • Foreign funding to political parties, allowing them a glare-free existence, to be applicable in retrospective upto 42 years.
  • Salary hikes for Members of Parliament, the President and Governors of differrent states.
  • An appropriation bill allowing the government to spend around Rs 80,000 crore from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Long Term Capital Gains Tax, that was brought back by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Budget 2018.

The Finance Bill, being a money bill can only originate in the Lok Sabha, following which, it is goes to the Rajya Sabha for approval. But the Rajya Sabha, also known as the upper house, has little power when it comes to suggesting amendments to a money bill, which may or may not be approved by the Lok Sabha.

True that the opposition hasn’t helped the situation any better. But passing bills with significant monetary impact without discussing them on the table is undemocratic.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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