Lok Sabha passed the Aadhaar Bill in its original form on Wednesday, after rejecting the four amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha, reported CNN-IBN.
Earlier on Wednesday, members of the Rajya Sabha debated the Bill and raised objections on several points. However, when they returned the Bill to the Lok Sabha it was with only four amendments: one on enrolment under Aadhaar (clause 3), mandatory use of Aadhaar for government services and subsidies (clause 7), disclosing information in the interest of national security (clause 33) and allowing private persons to use Aadhaar (clause 57).
Members, while pressing for amendments, recommended that Aadhaar be made voluntary, disclosure of information should be permitted in the interest of public safety or public emergency, instead of national security, and the clause allowing private persons to use Aadhaar be deleted.
The debate on the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 heated up between government and opposition, as opposition members questioned the decision to convert it into a money bill.
As a money bill, the upper house's role is restricted as its members cannot amend the bill, but only recommend amendments. They then go back to the Lok Sabha and the lower house can choose to pass or reject them. In this case, the Lok Sabha chose to reject all the amendments.
However, Congress did not rule out approaching courts against a move to turn the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill to bypass the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks majority. "We reserve the right to take recourse to all available alternatives including a court challenge," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters asserting that "by no stretch of imagination, the Aadhaar Bill is money bill".
"I don't have an Aadhaar number and I don't need one, because I am not a beneficiary of subsidy, but tomorrow if I want a mobile connection, the guys say 'Where is your Aadhaar number! You made it mandatory no!" said Congress member Jairam Ramesh, who had moved all the four amendments that were passed.
Jaitley, however, held that Aadhaar was not mandatory.
"..where people don't have it, alternative documents will be prescribed.... and the user would be predominantly through the state government," he said in his response. Tomorrow if Tamil Nadu government decides that people below a certain income would get some benefits then it is mandatory if you want benefits," he said, giving an example.
He earlier assured the the house that there are provisions for ensuring privacy, while stressing the Lok Sabha speaker's decision to classify it as a money bill cannot be questioned. "The core of this bill is government money is being spent by central and state governments. When you spend that money in order to ensure that money reaches the right man, you insist on the identity of the person. If subsidies are given as unquantified amounts to unidentified sections, then non-merit people will get subsidies and merit people will not get it... So, for people to get the benefit of subsidies, the production of UID or other alternative document has to be the pre-condition," he said.
On it being made a money bill, he said: "Article 110 decides what a money bill is. If money flows into consolidated fund of India and money flows out of consolidated fund of India, and a law yields with that matter it becomes a money bill."
"Article 110(3) says clearly it is satisfaction of speaker of Lok Sabha that is final... Once the speaker satisfies herself and says I certify it is a money bill, it will be a money bill and no authority in the country can question that provision," he said.
He also rejected CPM leader Sitaram Yechury's argument that government was being haste in bringing the law as a five-member bench of Supreme Court is looking into the Aadhaar case. "Sub-judice an argument which is available when issues of individual culpability are pending in the court, you don't prejudice a trial or hearing in a court by discussing it in a parliamentary forum," he said, adding that if the government waited for matters in court, petitions would be filed on other legislations as well. Because an unlegislated executive action of a government has been challenged in the court, parliament does not lose its right to legislate," he added.
The Aadhaar Bill intends to provide for targeted delivery of subsidies and services to individuals residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers.
The Bill was brought in the Lok Sabha as a money bill, which restricts the upper house's role as its members cannot amend the bill, but only recommend amendments, which will go back to the Lok Sabha and the lower house can choose to pass or reject them.
With inputs from agencies