Lok Sabha approves key spending bill

Lok Sabha approves key spending bill

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday went ahead with its legislative business despite opposition parties disrupting proceedings in Parliament on account of alleged corruption in allocating radio spectrum in 2008.

On the 15th day of the winter session, the Lok Sabha approved of a supplementary demand for grants for Rs44,945.52 crore by voice vote and introduced a judicial accountability Bill.

Although the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had listed 23 Bills for discussion in the winter session, opposition parties have refused Parliament to function on demands that a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) be formed to investigate irregularities in second-generation spectrum allocation, among other issues.

The draft judicial accountability legislation, introduced by law minister M.Veerappa Moily, proposes that all judges would be required to declare their assets and liabilities.

The Bill was “ripe" and on the priority list of the government, said Congress leader P.C. Chako. “Of course, in the new context, the proposed legislation has a new meaning," he added.

The Supreme Court has recently censured the government for the controversial spectrum allotment and on Wednesday questioned the transparency of the process and said it appeared “arbitrary."

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led opposition continued protests in both houses demanding a JPC into various corruption issues. The efforts made by the government last week and the Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar on Tuesday have failed to end the logjam since 9 November, when the current session began.

The government has so far declined to constitute a JPC, saying that the Public Accounts Committee, the parliamentary audit body, would examine the report of statutory auditor Comptroller and Auditor General into the irregularities taken place in allocating air waves.

On 18 December last year, the government rushed through five laws and introduced two Bills within 15 minutes in the Lok Sabha, bypassing all debate. On 16 December, three Bills were cleared in the Lok Sabha within 15 minutes. In its first term, the administration passed eight Bills in 17 minutes without discussion during the winter session of 2008.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed disappointment over the way the supplementary demands for grants were passed without a discussion. “I am not at all happy that we have to pass the supplementary demands in the din and bustle," he told reporters.

Mukherjee said the additional outgo will not increase the fiscal deficit, pegged at 5.5% in the Budget, mainly on account of increased tax collections and higher than anticipated receipts from auction of high-speed third-generation spectrum.

Although the government sought a gross amount of 44,945.52 crore, the net cash outgo will be only 9,812 crore as the remaining sums would be adjusted against savings under different heads.

The government in the annual 2010-11 budget had proposed an expenditure of Rs11.08 lakh crore.


Nikhil Kanekal contributed to this story