Stating that the edifice of India’s legislature is being destroyed “brick by brick”, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday exhorted legislators not to resort to actions that would lead to “undermining of the legislature and executive’s authority by the judiciary”.
His remarks in the Rajya Sabha came in reply to the Congress’ demand for a dispute settlement system in a proposed bill to roll out goods and services tax.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s directions on Wednesday to create the national disaster mitigation fund while replying to the debate on the Appropriation and Finance Bills, Jaitley said, “Now we have passed the Appropriation Bill. From where do I get the extra money outside the bill to comply with this direction of the SC? Can’t you see, step by step, brick by brick, the edifice of India’s legislature is being destroyed and outside the Appropriation Bill we are being told to create this levy, create this fund by an institution…there can’t be any tax, any expenditure unless it is approved by the Parliament.”
Responding to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s objection to GST and his party’s demand to have a dispute settlement process, Jaitley said, “You are suggesting that if states can’t decide in the GST Council, a body headed by the SC judge must then decide. For heaven’s sake, I beseech you in the interest of Indian democracy not to go on this misadventure….” He added, “With the manner in which encroachment of legislative and executive authority by India’s judiciary is taking place, probably financial powers and budget making is the last of the only powers that you have left. Taxation is the only power which states have.”
The finance minister said that it would be wholly misconceived for any party to say let us hand over the taxation power also to the judiciary. Even the standing committee, which went into the GST bill, gave a unanimous view that it is “dangerous” to have a dispute redressal mechanism. “It’s a political issue….it has to be sorted out politically. You can’t hand over this power,” Jaitley said.
He added, “…if a speaker’s ruling is subject to judicial review, if India’s budget making is going to be subjected to a court review, we will have budget-making going outside the Appropriation Bill and then there is taxation dispute between the Centre and state, a major party says let a judge now resolve it, so the taxation power also goes…”