The Supreme Court issued notices to the central and state governments on a petition alleging that they had spent more than Rs 1,91,554 for the year ended March 2002 alone without approval from Parliament and the legislatures as required by the Constitution.
The public interest petition filed by Era Sezhiyan, ex-MP, quotes mind-boggling figures spent without authority by the governments, as shown on the website of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
The figures for the previous years are not available, though the practice was going on for decades at the behest of the bureaucracy, without the knowledge of the law-makers.
The petitioner asks the court to issue a direction to the governments to place before the houses the demand for excessive expenditure.
According to him the present practice of skipping the house approval violates Articles 115 and 205 of the Constitution. The notices were issued by a bench consisting of Justice P V Reddi and Justice AR Lakshmanan.
According to the petition, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha had ruled in 1956 that the demand for money spent in excess of the voted grant should be made in the form of excess demand and not by way of supplementary demand.
Excess grant differs from a supplementary grant in that the former is made after the expenditure has actually been incurred and after the financial year to which it relates has expired.
Expenditure incurred during the previous financial year cannot be regularised by supplementary demands for the current year.
By making way for the expenditure through supplementary demands, the states and the centre had curtailed the right of the legislature to know why the excess spending was required, the petitioner alleged.
"It is shocking to note that the various state assemblies and their committees have allowed the excess running to several thousands of crore (Rs billion)s to remain unregularised for over ten to 20 years and this aspect has escaped the attention of MPs," Sezhian said in the petition."All these realities strengthen the view that while Parliament may be supreme in control over the public finance, in practice it is the bureaucracy which appears to be supreme in financial mismanagement and also in controlling the legislature."