Row over Aadhaar bill: What Congress wants to achieve by moving SC

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 08, 2016 17:49 IST
The Narendra Modi government brought the Aadhaar bill to give legal backing to its ambitious programme of allotting a unique identity number to people and using it for a wide range of government services. (HT Photo)

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Thursday filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Aadhaar bill being classified as a money bill.

The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 was passed after finance minister Arun Jaitley sought to allay the Opposition’s apprehensions concerning the bill during the Budget session this February.

Read more | Cong moves SC on passage of Aadhaar bill as money bill in RS

The move is likely to kick up another political storm between the BJP-ruled centre and the Congress. A breakdown of what the Aadhaar bill is and what could come of the petition.

Why is there a bill for Aadhaar?

The Narendra Modi government brought the Aadhaar or the UIDAI bill to give legal backing to its ambitious programme of allotting a unique identity number to people and using it for a wide range of government services. As the Aadhaar scheme was launched through an executive decision, the Centre faced legal hurdles to make it mandatory for different activities like distribution of scholarships, wage payment, etc.

On what grounds has former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh moved court?

Ramesh expressed reservations about how the bill was passed, rather than the bill itself.

“I am not opposed to the Aadhaar bill. But I am opposed to the way it was passed as a money bill. I have appealed to the Supreme Court to know if the Aadhaar bill could indeed be called as a money bill.”

According to the law, any bill that has provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, for appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund, etc., are certified as money bills. The Parliament rule says it is for the Lok Sabha Speaker to decide if a bill is fit to be a money bill.

Why has the Congress moved court now?

For a political party, taking legal recourse is always the last recourse. One may argue that the principal Opposition party had an opportunity to move court when the Aadhaar bill was introduced in the Lower House on March 3. But the Congress had raised objections then as well and Ramesh himself had moved three key amendments to the bill in Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha had rejected the amendments and passed the bill by a voice vote.

What does the Congress want to achieve?

Ramesh says the Aadhaar bill is just an example of how the Modi government is pushing the Rajya Sabha — where the government is in minority — to irrelevance. “The bill had grave implications for the future of the Upper House. It showed that in this way, the government can push any bill in Parliament as a money bill because it has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha. PM Modi has actually shown how the Rajya Sabha can be completely marginalised,” Ramesh said.

What if the apex court declares Aadhaar bill as not a money bill?

In all probability, the current bill will be considered null and void. The government will have to go back to the Parliament to pass a fresh bill if it wants to give Aadhaar a legal backing. Ramesh, however, denied that he wants this current bill to be scrapped.

“My submission to the Supreme Court is on a limited point of the Constitution: Whether or not it’s a money bill?”

Any result is unlikely to come soon as proceedings on such constitutional issues generally take time to be decided in court. Effectively, uncertainty on the Aadhaar law will continue for a long time.

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