Despite the present ruling coalition’s earlier reservations over the introduction of the budget through an ordinance by the outgoing KP Sharma Oli-led government in May, Finance Minister Janardan Sharma on Sunday presented the three budget-related ordinances at the joint session of the parliament held after the restoration of the House of Representatives by the Supreme Court.
Even though President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Sunday scrapped the ordinance to amend the Constitutional Council (Function, Duties, Power and Procedure) Act-2010 as per the recommendation of the Cabinet, the government decided to present ordinances related to the budget on the first day of the parliament session paving the way for their implementation.
On Sunday, Sharma presented the Financial Ordinance, Appropriation Ordinance and Ordinance on Public Debt at the joint session of parliament.
Energy Minister Pampha Bhusal told the Post that the Cabinet on Saturday decided to register these ordinances at Parliament as government agencies should function and revenue should be raised.
“As ordinances should be tabled at the first joint session of Parliament, the decision was taken to table the ordinance on budget at Parliament on Sunday,” she said.
According to Article 114 (2) of the constitution, every ordinance should be tabled at the first meeting of the new session of both houses of the Federal Parliament.
“If not passed by both Houses, it ceases to be effective,” it says.
The ordinance may be repealed at any time by the President and unless rendered ineffective or repealed by the President, it ceases to be effective at the expiration of sixty days after the day on which the session of both Houses starts, according to the constitution.
Earlier, Finance Minister Sharma had indicated that the new government would consider introducing the new budget if this government gets a vote of confidence while keeping the option open for implementation of the ordinance in the case of its failure to get a vote of confidence.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Sunday tested the floor of the House of Representatives to get a vote of confidence from the lawmakers.
Even though then opposition parties and experts had been calling for introduction of a temporary budget for expenditure of compulsory liabilities of the government, the Oli government had rejected such calls and introduced the full budget through ordinance on May 29.
Then finance minister Bishnu Poudel presented a budget of Rs Rs1.64 trillion for the fiscal year 2021-22, which began on July 16.
Even the Supreme Court made strong comments against running the state based on ordinance in its verdict on restoring the House of Representatives on July 12, saying that it is inappropriate and is against the representative governance system.
“It is not appropriate to dissolve the House of Representatives and give estimates of income and expenditure a legal form just a week ahead of the date of budget presentation and to introduce policies and annual programmes of long-term importance by a caretaker government instead of introducing expenditure arrangements for just compulsory liabilities of the government,” the court observed. “If such non-parliamentary practices are continued, they lead to the tendency of avoiding Parliament, devaluing constitutional provisions and exercising discretionary powers.”
Former Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told the Post last week that the new government should introduce a full budget at Parliament.
“After the Supreme Court pointed out the move of introducing a full budget by avoiding Parliament as a fraudulent activity, the budget introduced by the outgoing government cannot be implemented,” he had told the Post.
As per the constitution, the annual budget should be presented at both houses of parliament on Jestha 15 (which fell on May 29 this year) every year. But, a week before the budget presentation date, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the lower house in midnight of May 21 and the budget was presented through the ordinance.
“It is not that we were in favour of the presentation of the budget through ordinance,” said Dev Gurung, chief whip of ruling CPN (Maoist Centre). “The government had to table the ordinance at the parliament to follow the legal norms and procedures to take ownership of the expenditure and revenue collection made through the ordinance.”
He said that the new government could introduce a new budget or supplementary budget after getting the votes of confidence at the House of Representatives.
“But, whether to introduce a new budget or supplementary budget is up to the new government to decide,” he said.
According to Gurung, the government can continue with the ordinance through a replacement bill too if it wants. After continuing the ordinance in the short term, the government also has the power to introduce a supplementary budget as per Article 121 of the constitution.
“The finance minister shall, in any financial year, present supplementary estimates before the House of Representatives, if it is found that the sum authorised to be spent for a particular service by the Appropriation Act for the current fiscal year is insufficient, or that a need has arisen for expenditure upon new services not provided for by the Appropriation Act for that year, or the expenditures made during that fiscal year are in excess of the amount authorised by the Appropriation Act,” reads Article 121 (1).