New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea for deferring the Union budget 2017-18, in view of assembly polls in five states, holding that the presentation has to be done before the start of the financial year (FY) -- from April 1 -- and not during the FY.
Rejecting the plea, a bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: "If there is something that the Centre does that affects elections in the states then the Election Commission would come into the picture ... but does it extend to the central budget?"
Rejecting the PIL, the order said: "None of the prayers made in the petition have been made out".
The government has advanced the presentation of the annual budget to February 1, instead of the usual practice of presenting it on the last day of February.
Advocate M.L. Sharma, however, persisted with his plea for deferment of the presentations of the budget as, he contended, it would influence the voters and thus affect free and fair elections.
The bench then asked him to give one concrete example to show that one step in the budget that would affect the minds of the voters and the outcome of the elections in the states.
Referring to the provisions of the constitution that clearly demarcates the sphere of the Centre and the states, the apex court said if there were consecutive elections to the state assemblies in the month of March, April and May, and the logic being advanced by the petitioner advocate was to be applied, then there would be no budget.
It is a state election and it has nothing to do with the national budget, the court observed as PIL petitioner Sharma contended that the "question is if this (presentation of budget) would impact the principles of free and fair election".
Brushing aside the submission that the ruling party would use the budget to advance its prospects in the five state assemblies, Chief Justice Khehar said: "If democracy has to be interpreted in the way that you (petitioner advocate) do, then there would be no (ruling) party at the Centre."
The bench said people may think that if they vote for a party in the state that is ruling at the Centre, then by that logic there may not be a political party at the Centre.
Apparently unimpressed by the arguments advanced by petitioner advocate Sharma, the court asked him to give the "proposition of law" in support of his plea.
The apex court in the course of the hearing of the PIL on January 13 had said that there was nothing in the law that barred the government from advancing the date for the presentation of the annual budget for the year 2017-18.