Aadhaar Bill: Centre opposes plea proposed by Jairam Ramesh in SC

New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday opposed the petition filed by senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh questioning the decision to treat Aadhaar Bill as a money bill saying that the constitutional provision bars him from challenging it.

"Under the Constitution, it is a settled position that money bill certified by the Speaker is beyond challenge," Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur which had sought his assistance.

However, senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for Ramesh, submitted that when there was a violation of rule of law, "locus is not the ground on which the petition can be thrown out."

A file photo of Jairam Ramesh. AFP

A file photo of Jairam Ramesh. AFP

When the bench, also comprising Justices R Banumathi and UU Lalit, wanted to know "if it (treating Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill) is open to judicial review", the Attorney General said there was no violation of fundamental right of Ramesh so the petition filed by him under Article 32 of the Constitution cannot be entertained.

Chidambaram responded by saying that there was violation of rule of law which forms basic structure of the Constitution and as such the petition needed to be entertained.

He said Aadhaar Bill cannot be treated as Money Bill so the petition has been filed under Article 32.

The senior Congress leader informed the bench that the Bill had its passage in the Lok Sabha through voice vote but the Rajya Sabha chairman before whom the complaint was made said he has no power to act on the Bill certified by the Lok Sabha Speaker.

The bench, which noted his submission that it was a grave matter and needs proper hearing, posted for third week of July.

The apex court had on 25 April sought the assistance of the AG but did not issue notice on the plea of Ramesh.

Lok Sabha had on 16 March passed the Aadhaar bill that aims at better targeting of subsidies through the Aadhaar unique identity.

The House had earlier adopted the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, by a voice vote after rejecting recommendations for five amendments made by the Upper House. Armed with the Speaker's decision that it was a money
bill, the government had pushed it in Rajya Sabha which cannot amend it but only make recommendations for amendment to Lok Sabha.

Once Lok Sabha passes a money bill with or without amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha, it is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses.

Showing urgency in getting the law through, the Centre, which enjoys a comfortable majority in Lok Sabha, had brought the measure to the Lower House within an hour of being returned by Rajya Sabha.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who had moved the bill and piloted it in both the Houses, had also turned down the opposition argument that Parliament cannot legislate since the matter is before the Supreme Court.

Jairam Ramesh, while proposing amendments in the bill in Rajya Sabha, had expressed "anguish" that the bill was brought as a money bill, an act he likened to "knocking a nail in the coffin of the Upper House".

Calling the passage of the bill in this manner "a very dangerous trend", Ramesh had said that the government tried to "bypass" Rajya Sabha by doing this.

Insisting that a series of conditions are specified in Article 110 of the Constitution and that the Article uses the word "only" if those conditions are prevalent can a bill be declared a money bill, he had said that the Aadhaar bill, which was passed as a money bill "ignored five recommendations made by the Rajya Sabha.

"It had many other provisions and most constitutional experts have given the view that the Aadhaar bill is not a money bill. While the prerogative of declaring a bill as a money bill or not is that of the Speaker and the Speaker's decision is final, the recommendation to the Speaker to consider making it a money bill is that of the government.

"It is the government that decides whether it is a money bill or not and the Speaker only certifies it as money bill," Ramesh had said.

Moving amendments in the Upper House during consideration of the bill, the former Union Minister had argued that every individual should have the freedom to opt out of Aadhaar and said the present bill does not give that space.

Stating that he himself does not have an Aadhaar card, Ramesh had said a situation may arise when it may be needed even to book a flight or get a phone number.

He had also opposed another provision in the bill which he termed as "broad" and "amorphous" and could become the ground for misuse of the law as it gives "sweeping powers" on the grounds of national security.

He had suggested that rather than national security, the terms "public emergency" or "public safety" could be used. He had said that an independent member like the CVC should be included in the panel that decides which information regarding a person can be shared.

Ramesh had said any suo motu powers, "even to collect information", should not be given to the Aadhaar authority, for instance it could even direct collection of DNA.

He had said there were concerns of privacy and the amendments moved by him were in line with the recommendation suggested by a Commission headed by Justice (retd) AP Shah, which had been set by the Planning Commission to examine the matter.

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Updated Date: May 10, 2016 21:23:12 IST

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