A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the validity of Aadhaar scheme and its enabling law, however, said there was a Supreme Court judgement which said the Speaker’s decision on terming a Bill as a money bill cannot be questioned in a court of law.
“Once the Speaker says that a Bill is a money Bill, then the courts should not question,” the bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said while referring to the 2014 judgement.
Senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for his party colleague Jairam Ramesh, said though objections were raised on the Aadhaar bill in the Rajya Sabha, nothing could be done as it was held as money bill by the Lok Sabha Speaker.
The senior lawyer was responding to a query raised by the bench in the hearing of main Aadhaar case as to whether a parliamentary panel was formed to examine the Aadhaar Bill.
He said that members cannot question the decision of the speaker outside the house, but the courts are empowered to examine the validity of the decision.
The top court, on December 15 last year, had sought a response from the centre on the plea of Jairam Ramesh challenging the government’s decision to treat Aadhaar bill as a money bill and pass it in the budget session last year after rejecting amendments to it by the Rajya Sabha.
After issuing notice to the centre, the top court had tagged the plea with the clutch of petitions against the Aadhaar scheme itself for hearing today by the constitution bench.
Prior to this, it had said that it was “tentatively not convinced” about the grounds cited by the Congress leader to challenge Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision to certify a bill to amend Aadhaar law as a money bill.
The observation had come after the government had contended that it fulfilled the criteria for certification as money bill as funds for welfare schemes for which the biometric identification number (Aadhaar) was necessary has to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India.
The centre took the stand that the decision of the Speaker cannot be brought under judicial scrutiny.
The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 was passed by 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 the amendments proposed by the Upper House and passed it.
A money bill contains provisions for various taxes and appropriation of funds and can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to such bills after passage by the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha can suggest amendments but it depends on the Lok Sabha to accept or reject them.
The NDA government chose to categorise the bill as a money bill as it lacked a majority in the Rajya Sabha.