Aadhaar impact?: 7-judge bench to look at passage of 2017 Finance Act
The decision virtually reopened the 2018 Aadhaar judgment since it upheld the validity of the passing the Aadhaar Act, 2016 as a Money Bill.Updated: Nov 14, 2019 05:35 IST
The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a larger bench the issue of whether the 2017 Finance Act could be passed as a Money Bill, while striking down certain provisions pertaining to the functioning of tribunals reconstituted under the act.
The decision virtually reopened the 2018 Aadhaar judgment since it upheld the validity of the passing the Aadhaar Act, 2016 as a Money Bill. The Centre relied upon this precedent to defend the manner of the passage of the Finance Act and provisions pertaining to tribunals.
The Centre’s submission led to the court examining the Aadhaar judgment in detail, particularly in relation to Article 110 of the Constitution which defines “money bills”. “It is clear to us that the majority dictum in KS Puttaswamy [Aadhaar case] did not substantially discuss the effect of the word ‘only’ in Article 110(1) and offers little guidance on the repercussions of a finding when some of the provisions of an enactment passed as a “Money Bill” do not conform to Article 110(1)(a) to (g),” said the 3-2 ruling on Wednesday.
The interpretation of the Aadhaar Act was “liberal” and the court is convinced that these “might not be in accord with the bicameral parliamentary system envisaged under our constitutional scheme,” the order added.
While Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi wrote the majority judgment for himself and justices NV Ramana, and Sanjiv Khanna, Justice DY Chandrachud and Deepak Gupta wrote the minority verdict.
The Constitution bench struck down the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017.
The court asked the central government to draft a fresh set of rules and report back within six months. The bench held that until the new rules are framed, the appointment of tribunals are to be made in accordance with the provisions of stipulated statutes.
The Centre maintained its stand that it is a money bill since it has provisions which deal with salaries and allowance to be paid to members of tribunals from the consolidated funds of India. The petitioners argued that just because a bill says that salaries shall be paid to the members of tribunal, it does not mean it is a money bill.
The government also argued that certification of the Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha speaker, and hence the court cannot judicially review this decision. Money bills are those which exclusively contain provisions for imposition of taxes and appropriation of funds out of the Consolidated Fund of India. Petitioners argued that a money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha can only make amendments to it. But this bill came into force on April 1, 2017 and all suggestions made by the Rajya Sabha were dismissed. This entire act “amounted to a fraud on the Constitution” according to petitioners.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who is a petitioner in the case, said, “It is important to have a discussion on the money bill in Parliament.”