Congress claims victory in Aadhaar verdict, vows to fight changes in law
The majority judgement in Supreme Court didn’t overturn the government’s decision to push the Aadhaar law as a money bill, but there was enough in the minority dissenting judgement to suggest that the Speaker’s call on what constitutes a money bill could be subject to judicial review.Updated: Sep 26, 2018 23:29 IST
The Congress on Wednesday claimed the Supreme Court’s verdict on Aadhaar was a “big victory” for its stand, but added that it would challenge in court any attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government to bring an amendment to the Aadhaar Act through the money bill route.
The majority judgement given on Wednesday didn’t overturn the government’s decision to push the Aadhaar law as a money bill — one of the points being considered by the court — but there was still enough in the minority dissenting judgement to suggest that the Speaker’s call on what constitutes a money bill could be subject to judicial review.
The majority judgement also scrapped some sections of the Aadhaar law, wrote down some others, and amended still others in an attempt to protect the right of individuals and prevent misuse of Aadhaar, especially by private entities.
A money bill is a one on which only the Lok Sabha (where the current government has a comfortable majority) has voting rights, and not the Rajya Sabha (where the government is in a minority).
Congress president Rahul Gandhi hailed the verdict calling it an endorsement of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s vision for Aadhaar. The Congress-led UPA initiated the Aadhaar scheme in 2009.
“For Congress, Aadhaar was an instrument of empowerment. For the BJP, Aadhaar is a tool of oppression and surveillance,” Gandhi said, thanking the SC for “supporting the Congress vision” and protecting the country.
Earlier in the day, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal told reporters the party would certainly move the court if the amendments in the Aadhaar Act brought after this verdict are not brought to the Rajya Sabha for discussion.
“We will approach a seven-judge bench to consider this verdict again if brought as a money bill. One important part of the judgement is that if in future the Lok Sabha Speaker declares a bill as money bill, then court can review this and revert,” he said.
“The decisions of the Lok Sabha Speaker can be subject to judicial review. This is the very first time that a Constitutional bench has held so. This marks the beginning of a new era of accountability for the Speaker who was, so far, beyond reproach,” Sibal added.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh challenged in court the government’s decision to treat Aadhaar bill as a money bill and pass it in the Lok Sabha during the budget session last year after rejecting amendments by the Rajya Sabha. On Wednesday, a majority of the judges said that the Aadhaar bill could be treated as a money bill.
“The Supreme Court is final but not infallible. But it is a partial victory in the sense that the speaker’s decision is now subject to judicial review which will act as a check on the executive,” Ramesh said.
Later in the day, flanked by Congress general secretary in charge of organisation Ashok Gehlot and the party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, Sibal said the decision to strike down the “surveillance tool” will put an end to the Modi government’s “abuse of power”.
“Through its judgment, the Supreme Court had firmly put an end to the mass surveillance exercise being carried out under the guise of Aadhaar and the grotesque distortion of an idea conceived by the UPA,” he said.
“The Congress stands for an Aadhaar which is voluntary and backed by a valid law. It stands for an Aadhaar which provides a genuinely stable, secure and viable alternative to existing forms of identification aimed at making it the most important tool for delivery of benefits rather than invasion of privacy.”
First Published: Sep 26, 2018 23:28 IST