In a move criticised by the Opposition as unprecedented, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed amendments to 40 laws Tuesday, incorporating them in the Finance Bill moved for consideration in Lok Sabha. The proposed changes include bringing down the cap on cash transaction to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 3 lakh, making Aadhaar mandatory for filing tax returns and allowing cheque-only contributions for electoral bonds.
The TMC, the BJD and the RSP alleged the government was tagging non-tax bills with the Finance Bill for a “backdoor entry” to classify them as money bills, which don’t require the approval of Rajya Sabha. “If the existing 40 Acts are to be amended, they have to come with a separate legislation… it is a backdoor legislation; it is absolutely a backdoor legislation,” said the RSP’s N K Premachandran. “This has never been heard in the history of Indian legislative mechanism.” Speaker Sumitra Mahajan overruled the objections, saying rules permit “non-taxation proposals” to be included in the Finance Bill. Jailtey said the amendments were all “incidental provisions” to the Finance Bill and relate to budget announcements like combining some tribunals and creating uniform service conditions.
Jaitley noted the Opposition’s argument was that “it is only taxation proposals and nothing else, which is incidental, really can find a place as far as the money bill is concerned”. Quoting former Speaker G V Mavalankar, Jaitley said when a bill substantially deals with the imposition, abolition etc of a tax, the other provisions necessary for the achievement of the bill cannot take away from it the category of money bills. Describing an amendment to several tribunals, he said, “…40 may sound very large — is there is only one amendment which says there will be uniformity in service conditions and the pay structure of all those retired judges who are being appointed in all these tribunals. He said this constitutes a money bill as it relates to government expenditure.
Premachandran said when the original bill was presented on February 1, only eight to 10 Acts were proposed to be amended. He said the rules say the Finance Bill is to give effect to financial proposals of the government for the next financial year whereas these amendments would have permanent impact. “It is being bulldozed… If you conduct the House like this, then there is no need for the monsoon and the winter sessions… Standing Committee can be curtailed.” He asked, “How can the issue of electoral bonds come under the Finance Bill?” Jaitley said electoral bonds have been proposed for cleansing political funding.
Saugata Roy of the TMC argued the Speaker should not allow the minister to go ahead. “Let the Finance Bill consist of only the taxation proposals. Let us pass it without much ado, and let us keep the other bills in limbo. There is a long Session ahead, and let the finance minister bring those Bills later.” Deepender Hooda of the Congress said the government should have brought a separate bill on transparency in electoral funding as an amendment to the RBI Act was “consequential” and not “incidental”. “Your aim was to bring transparency in electoral funding.. A separate transparency in electoral funding bill should have been brought.”