With Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday introducing Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 in the Lok Sabha, a fresh debate has started over the NDA government allegedly circumventing rules to introduce a bill as money bill in the lower house.
This is not the first instance of the government taking recourse to the money bill route to avoid introducing a bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it lacks majority. An upset opposition has decided to oppose the move.
A money bill is the one which deals with provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, and can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha. Once passed in the House of People, the bill has to be passed without any amendments by the Rajya Sabha within 14 days from the date of receipt, failing which it is considered approved. Under the rules, the Speaker of Lok Sabha has the power to allow a bill to be introduced as a money bill.
“It is not a money bill. The whole Rajya Sabha has taken that position. The position is that you cannot decide on money bills according to your own whims and fancies. My personal view is there is one clause in the Constitution, which stipulates that in the case of a dispute over a money bill, the ruling of the Speaker is final and binding. That clause is what is being misused today. So, personally in my opinion that clause should go from the Constitution…You find another adjudicating authority because the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, unlike the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, is one of the elected members of Parliament. Elected on the ticket of one particular political party. And if that political party forms the government then you will always have such predicaments,” said CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Anand Sharma, deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, said his party was in touch with opposition parties on the issue.
“This is going to become a serious matter. If a bill is exclusively dealing with revenues or taxes, then you can categorise that as a money bill. But we find it very strange that where there is only transfer of benefits using the Aadhaar card or the identity of the person concerned or the services of the state…you categorise that also as a money bill. You are talking about cooperative federalism and you are cutting out the council of states. Rajya Sabha represents the states of the country. That is why it is the permanent house and the first house of Parliament,” he said.
He asserted that the NDA government was resorting to these means to circumvent their minority status in Rajya Sabha.
“By doing so, their intent is very clear. That they just want to use their majority to get the bills passed without any legislative scrutiny. That means without referring the bills even to the Standing Committees and also bypassing the council of states. They have done it more than once and it is a disturbing trend. Earlier, they used to talk about joint sessions. Now they realise that would be impossible for them so they have taken this route,” he added.
On Thursday, when Jaitley introduced the bill, there were protests from the Congress and other opposition parties. The government has been citing a favourable opinion from the Attorney General to assert that the Aadhaar Bill is a money bill.
The bill introduced in Parliament Thursday will empower Centre or the state governments to make Aadhaar number a necessary condition for “receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from Consolidated Fund of India”.
Incidentally, some of the key clauses of the bill are not in conformity with the decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue of making Aadhaar mandatory. Experts and even a Parliamentary panel have earlier raised questions over the protection of privacy of individuals under the new law.
Jaitley, however, tried to assuage such feelings, asserting that the bill addressed concerns over privacy of Aadhaar data and had a clause that restricted its use as proof of citizenship.
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