The Congress on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to refer to a larger bench the question whether the 2017 Finance Act was a Money Bill while setting aside provisions relating to working of tribunals. The party said it was a victory for Rajya Sabha and democracy and a big defeat for the Narendra Modi government.
“The verdict will have far- reaching consequences on any future attempts by the Modi government to abuse the Money Bill route and is also a reminder to future governments that any attempt at diluting our institutions will not be allowed,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said at a press meet.
The apex court order came on a batch of petitions, including one by Ramesh, challenging the “form and substance” of the 2017 Finance Act.
Ramesh said the ruling was a victory for democracy in general and Rajya Sabha in particular. He said it is important to have a discussion on the Money Bill in Parliament. He alleged that the government has been misusing Article 110 over the past three years and converting key Bills to Money Bills for avoiding a vote and passage in Rajya Sabha.
He said the government had sought to dilute appointments to 19 different tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal and the Central Administrative Tribunal.
“All terms of conditions had been changed. The qualifications had been changed, the tenure had been changed, the terms which govern the appointment of judicial members and technical members all had been changed. Basically, the objective was was to make these tribunals answerable only to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office. That has been quashed today,” Ramesh said.
He said the government had made changes in the rules relating to the working of the tribunals “with the furtive intention of vesting greater control in the central government on the appointments of judges to these judicial and quasi-judicial bodies”.
“Knowing fully well the Finance Act (and the Rules framed thereunder) would not pass parliamentary muster, the Modi government classified it as a Money Bill so as to prevent voting in the Rajya Sabha,” he said.