While the Supreme Court’s majority verdict upholding the passage of Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill, came as a shot in the arm for the government, Justice D Y Chandrachud’s dissenting judgment raises a question mark, even if slightly, over Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision.
Justice Chandrachud observed, “Bypassing Rajya Sabha to pass the Act amounted to subterfuge and is liable to be struck down as violative of Article 110 of the Constitution.”
While arguing before the apex court, Attorney General K K Venugopal had contended that the Speaker’s decision is final and is protected from judicial review.
The majority-judgment said: “We are of the opinion that (the) Bill was rightly introduced as Money Bill. Accordingly, it is not necessary for us to deal with other contentions of the petitioners, namely, whether certification by the Speaker about the Bill being Money Bill is subject to judicial review or not, whether a provision which does not relate to Money Bill is severable or not.”
While all Bills are required to be cleared by both Houses of Parliament, a Bill designated as Money Bill by the Speaker can be enacted into law by the Lok Sabha without the Upper House’s approval. The Rajya Sabha can suggest amendments but these are not binding on the Lower House.
The Aadhaar Act was passed using this route since the government lacked the requisite numbers in Rajya Sabha at the time.
On March 3, 2016, when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the Aadhaar Bill in Lok Sabha, there were protests from the Opposition. Jaitley had said: “Madam Speaker, I rise to move for leave to introduce a Bill to provide for, as a good governance, efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India…”
The reference was reflective of the legislation being brought in as Money Bill.
Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge asked the Finance Minister, “You make your intentions clear. This shows that you want to avoid Rajya Sabha.”
Jaitley replied that it was indeed a Money Bill. He said, “This is strictly in accordance with Article 110. I have introduced the Bill. It is for the Speaker to now examine it and certify whether it is a Money Bill or not, and that ruling is final.”
Several members, including Biju Janata Dal’s leader Bhartruhari Mahtab, Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress and Trinamool Congress’s Dinesh Trivedi, objected. However, the Speaker moved on to the next item after observing, “It is my prerogative…. I have given the permission that the honourable minister can introduce the Bill.”