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Money Bill or not: The debate surrounding Aadhaar law

In 2016, Aadhaar law was passed as a Money Bill in the parliament controversially overruling the amendments given by Rajya Sabha. Here is a breakdown of why and why not Aadhaar can be a Money Bill.

Published: 26th September 2018 09:06 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2018 09:19 PM   |  A+A-

The Supreme Court upheld the passing of Aadhaar bill as money bill by the Lok Sabha in March 2016. (Photos | Agencies)

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, while declaring that Aadhaar is constitutionally valid with conditions, also upheld the passing of Aadhaar bill as money bill by the Lok Sabha in March 2016.

The Congress, however, has said it would approach the apex court to reconsider the plea against passage of the legislation as a Money Bill.

So, what is a Money Bill?

According to Article 110 in the Constitution Of India, a Bill shall be deemed to be a Money Bill if it contains provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters, namely:

(a) the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;

(b) the regulation of the borrowing of money or the giving of any guarantee by the Government of India, or the amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken or to be undertaken by the Government of India;

(c) the custody of the Consolidated Fund or the Contingency Fund of India, the payment of money into or the withdrawal of money from any such Fund;

(d) the appropriation of money out of the Consolidated Fund of India;

(e) the declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or the increasing of the amount of any such expenditure;

(f) the receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a State; or

(g) any matter incidental to any of the matters specified in subclause (a) to (f)

(2) A Bill shall not be deemed to be a Money Bill by reason only that it provides for the imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment of fees for licences or fees for services rendered, or by reason that it provides for the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax by any local authority or body for local purposes.

(3) If any question arises whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final.

How is a Money Bill passed?

A Money Bill can be introduced in Lok Sabha only.

Rajya Sabha is required to return a Money Bill passed by Lok Sabha within fourteen days from the date of its receipt. The period of fourteen days is computed from the date of receipt of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and not from the date on which it is laid on the Table of Rajya Sabha.

If a Money Bill is returned by the Rajya Sabha without any recommendation, it is presented to the President for assent.

If a Money Bill is returned by Rajya Sabha with recommendations, it is laid on the Table of Lok Sabha again. Any Minister in the case of a government bill or any member in the case of a private member’s bill after giving two days notice, or with the consent of the Speaker without notice, move that the amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha be taken into consideration.

After the motion is carried, the amendments are put to vote. If Lok Sabha accepts the amendment recommended by Rajya Sabha, the Money Bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses with the amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha and accepted by Lok Sabha.

If Lok Sabha does not accept any of the amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha, the Money Bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha without any of the amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha and it is presented to the President for assent.

However, if Rajya Sabha does not return a Money Bill within the prescribed period of fourteen days, the Bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses of Parliament at the expiry of the said period of fourteen days in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha and thereafter it is presented to the President for assent.

Why is it controversial for Aadhaar law to be considered as a Money Bill?

The following are two of the major conflicts when it comes to considering the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill:

1. Row over the power of Lok Sabha speaker

Justice DY Chandrachud, a member of the five-judge Supreme Court bench on Aadhaar issue, on Wednesday held that the Aadhaar Act cannot be treated as a Money Bill and passing it as one would be a fraud on the Constitution.

Justice Chandrachud said the decision of the Lok Sabha Speaker on whether a bill can be treated as Money Bill (as per sub-clause (3) of Article 110) can be subjected to judicial review.

"Aadhaar could not have been brought as a Money Bill. The Speaker cannot take away the powers of the Rajya Sabha, a creation of the Constitution. No power is absolute," he said. 

In 2016, when originally the Aadhaar bill was passed during the Budget Session in March that year, overruling amendments moved in the Rajya Sabha, Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh, represented by P Chidambaram, had moved the apex court challenging the decision to treat Aadhaar bill as a Money Bill.

Notably, under Article 110, a Money Bill can be passed in the Parliament even without accepting the amendments given by Rajya Sabha where the current NDA government does not have a majority.

2. Ambiguity over the definition of a Money Bill

On May 2, this year, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Dipak Misra, had not quite agreed with the government's contention that the Aadhaar law was correctly termed as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha Speaker as it dealt with 'targeted delivery of subsidies' for which funds come from the Consolidated Fund of India.

"The problem arises with regard to section 57 (of the Aadhaar Act). Section 57 snapped the link with section 7 and the targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services," the bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, had said.

The bench said allowing 'anybody corporate or person' to use Aadhaar for establishing the identity for any purpose 'snaps the link with Consolidated Fund of India', indicating that the Aadhaar legislation cannot be called a Money Bill.

However, Attorney General KK Venugopal defended the government's stand. He referred to the preamble and several provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 and said the term 'targeted delivery of subsidies' contemplated the expenditure of funds.

"The expenditure has to go into thousands of crores of rupees from the Consolidated Fund of India. This itself brings it (law) into the ambit of Money Bill under Article 110 of the Constitution," he said.

"Not a single provision in the Act is unnecessary or unrelated to the main purpose or the pith and substance of the Act which is giving subsidies, services and benefits," the top law officer said.

However, the bench stuck to its observations on Section 57 and said "there is no distribution of benefits and subsidies under section 57."

Venugopal also referred to Article 110 (1) (g) of the Constitution and said it contained words 'any matter' and the Aadhaar Law fell under this definition and was rightly held as a Money Bill.

(With inputs from agencies)

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