Supreme Court resumes hearing on MP local area fund scheme

January 20th, 2009 - 9:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday began a second round of hearing of arguments on a lawsuit against the allocation of around Rs.16 billion annually to parliamentarians to help them undertake developmental activities in their constituencies.A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan took up the hearing on the issue for a second time, after closing it in the third week of November last year and reserving its ruling on the legality of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme.

The hearing resumes on a plea by the government, which said it wanted to make some additional argument in support of the legality of the scheme.

The lawsuit was filed by Jammu and Kashmir Panther’s Party chief Bhim Singh, who contended that the Rs.20 million annual corpus for each MP is illegal simply because parliament has never enacted any law to back the scheme.

Pointing out the constitutional provisions that bar the government from spending a single paisa from the public exchequer without due budgetary mandate of parliament, Singh’s senior counsel K.K. Venugopal earlier argued that the government cannot even make a law to back this scheme.

He explained to the bench that the constitution lays down a definite method for the government to spend any money from the public exchequer, but the expenditure under MPLADS is not covered by any constitutional scheme.

Refuting Venugopal’s earlier arguments, Solicitor General Goolam E. Vahanavati Tuesday asserted that the government gets the money under MPLAD from the public exchequer, also known as the Consolidated Fund of India, on a demand, which is put to vote in parliament.

Vahanvati contended that the Lok Sabha has the absolute power to sanction payment and expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India.

As for the argument that there is no law to back the scheme, Vahanvati said: “It’s wholly erroneous to restrict parliament’s powers to sanction expenditure for a scheme only supported by a law.”

Various constitution provisions do restrict parliament’s power to impose taxes, but no restriction can be placed on the house to fund any expenditure by the government, he said.

“Parliament can always sanction any expenditure for the benefit of people of the entire country or part of the country,” said Vahanvati.

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