NEW DELHI: Supreme Court today said it was "tentatively not convinced" with the grounds taken by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh to challenge Lok Sabha Speaker's decision to certify a bill to amend Aadhaar law as a money bill.
As the government asserted that it fulfilled the criteria as the expenditure for the welfare schemes has to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India, the apex court said the issue was "important and serious" and it did not want to take a call on it in haste.
It granted four weeks to Ramesh's counsel and senior advocate P Chidambaram to prepare his case by taking into account all the objections raised by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who also said that the decision of the Speaker cannot be brought under judicial scrutiny.
The remarks "tentatively, we are not convinced and you can convince us" came from a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana, after the Attorney General countered Chidambaram's submissions by stating that all criteria laid down under the Constitution have been incorporated in the bill to be designated a money bill.
Chidambaram, the former Finance Minister, was trying to convince the bench that the bill was certified as a money bill to avoid its scrutiny before the Rajya Sabha which does not have any say on a money bill.
"More and more bills are certified as money bills to bypass the Rajya Sabha," Chidambaram told the bench which asked, "what ex-facie can you show us in it (Aadhaar bill) that does not fall in the criteria for money bill".
However, after Rohatgi said the bill fulfilled all the constitutional requirements including that all the expenditure incurred on subsidies for welfare scheme would be withdrawn from the consolidated fund, the bench told the Congress leader that before this submission by the Attorney General, it was in agreement with the points raised by them.
"We were quite agreeable but now certain points have been raised by the Attorney General," the bench said.
Rohatgi submitted that the Speaker of the House was a high constitutional post and decisions are taken with responsibility.
However, the bench said, "So be it. But does it mean it cannot be examined. We are also holding constitutional posts.
We also pass judgements and the constitution bench overturns them".
"This is a serious issue. Your (Centre) intention may be good," the bench observed.
Attorney General submitted that the amendment was a money bill and the argument that since the parent bill was not a money bill, so the amendment bill cannot be a money bill, was rejected by the court.
During the hearing, the bench wanted to know whether the Rajya Sabha at the time of amendment said it was a money bill.
Pressing for the scrutiny of the Speaker's decision to certify the Aadhaar bill as a money bill, Chidambaram said it is important to see what can be certified as the money bill.
He tried to make a distinction between a money bill and a financial bill saying all financial bills are not money bills.
However, the Attorney General focussed his arguments only on the bill for Aadhaar and said Ramesh has no locus standi to file such petition as there was no violation of any of his fundamental rights.
He said that Speaker has all the privilege to take action in the House which is supreme and there is no question of courts examining the decisions taken there.
"You have to give flesh and blood. It's a withdrawal of money from the consolidated funds," the AG said while stressing that the bill was rightly certified as a money bill by the Speaker and referred to the Preamble of the Aadhaar Act that the expenditure on subsidies have to be incurred from the consolidated fund.
"This is the main feature. Money is withdrawn from the consolidated fund," he said while pointing to the relevant provision of the law.
The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Bill, 2016 was discussed and passed in the Lok Sabha on March 11 last year. It was then taken up in Rajya Sabha on March 16, where several amendments were made to it. The bill was then returned the same evening to Lok Sabha which rejected all amendments proposed by the Upper House and passed it.