A day after the end of the budget session of Parliament, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday said it is a serious question in a parliamentary democracy wherein the wisdom of a directly elected house is questioned repeatedly by the indirectly elected house.
He is the Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha.
Responding to a question on opposition criticism that the government was bypassing parliamentary scrutiny by slipping in legislative agenda as a money bill, Jaitley said the opposition did raise the issue, but did not have any reply after he read out Article 110 of the Constitution.
Article 110 defines what can be deemed as a money bill, but goes on to say that if any question arises whether a bill is a money bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final.
“Now, a money bill has got nothing to do only with taxation being levied. The appropriations, expenditure, cutdown in expenditure, all that is money bill. So that’s squarely provided in Article 110. This is a legal/constitutional response,” he said.
According to Jaitley, the Parliament is facing one big challenge. “I can understand in a bicameral house, once in a while an indirectly elected house questioning the wisdom of a directly elected house. This can happen once in a while, but it can’t happen bill after bill, session after session. It’s a serious question in a parliamentary democracy wherein bill after bill, the wisdom of a directly elected house is questioned by the indirectly elected house. And, therefore, if (Article) 110 provides an answer to it, that’s a constitutional remedy for such as situation,” he said.
While the debate over the money bill began after the government clubbed certain amendments to the FCRA, SCRA, FEMA and the PMLA with the finance bill, the latest flashpoint is the government’s move to treat the black money bill as a money bill.
In a meeting with Opposition leaders Wednesday morning, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari made a forceful case for questioning this. He informally told political parties that the Upper House needs to be vigilant against such “liberal interpretation” of the tag of a money bill. He also said members need to raise the matter vigorously to ensure that the dignity of the Council of States is maintained and it remains relevant in the enactment of legislation.
The session that ended Wednesday also saw the government and the opposition squabbling over parliamentary procedures and traditions with the result that as many as seven bills including the GST Bill being referred to the select committee of the Rajya Sabha.
Though this is is the first time a senior minister in the government highlighted the Rajya Sabha-Lok Sabha debate, BJP president Amit Shah had emphasised the Lok Sabha’s supremacy.
In an interview to The Indian Express on January 31, Shah had said, “In a democratic republic, the House of the People should have supremacy. Every law for development of the country — and its people endorsed the House of People — gets stuck in the Upper House. This is not good for the country and it’s not a healthy tradition. The party that has majority in the Lok Sabha should have the say in issues related to development.”