GUWAHATI: Hours before Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma presented the state budget for 2020-21 fiscal in the Assembly on Friday, his speech was uploaded on the official website of the department but pulled down later.
The incident led to chaos in the Assembly with the opposition interrupting Sarma while he was reading the budget speech.
They alleged breach of privilege which was turned down by Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami.
The budget was scheduled to be presented at 2 pm in the House, but the copy of his speech was first seen at around 9:30 am in the finance department's official website -- www.finance.assam.gov.in -- and circulated through various media groups in Whatsapp.
The opposition wondered how the budget document was uploaded on the website even before the state cabinet met at 1 pm to approve it.
Sarma's speech was removed from the website at around 10:30 am. Though he did not mention about the incident but Sarma tweeted: "State Cabinet will discuss the state budget at 1 pm only and taxation proposals will be decided only in that meeting. Request everyone to avoid speculation." A senior journalist of a TV news channel, who saw the speech first in the morning, said that it could have been online for more hours, but he saw it only around 9:30 am.
Immediately, local TV channels started flashing the budget and some even telecast all the budgetary estimates for 2020-21 fiscal.
Congress and AIUDF members alleged that the figures mentioned in the budget, uploaded on the website, and the actual one, presented in the Assembly, were same.
As soon as Sarma stood to present the budget in the House, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia raised the issue and sought the speaker's intervention.
"The budget was leaked hours ago. What is the point presenting it now?" he asked.
The speaker accepted that it is being flashed in TV news channels, but expressed doubt whether it was just source-based information.
Saikia alleged it was a breach of privilege. "Leaking of budget is not a breach of privilege. We can discuss this issue after completion of the budget presentation," the speaker said.
When the speaker asked Sarma to continue reading the budget speech, Congress members staged a walkout. Sarma presented a Rs 1,249.50-crore deficit budget for 2020-21 financial year.