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Jairam Ramesh takes Money Bill row to Supreme Court

A visitor gives a thumb impression to withdraw money from his bank account with his Aadhaar card during a mela in Hyderabad to promote digital payment. File photo   | Photo Credit: AFP

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear in detail a challenge by Jairam Ramesh, MP, to the passing of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill even as the Union government said the judiciary had no jurisdiction to encroach on legislative procedure in Parliament, where the Speaker was the final authority.

“If the Speaker says blue is green, we will tell her that blue is blue and not green,” Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar shot back.

Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said the government saved ₹30,000 crore to ₹50,000 crore by linking thousands of subsidies to Aadhaar verification.

“Your object may be good but whether it is a Money Bill or not is the question,” Chief Justice Khehar observed.

But the Bench, which included Justice N.V. Ramana, asked why the Rajya Sabha had suggested amendments to the Aadhaar Bill when it was referred to it as a Money Bill.

“So by suggesting these amendments, did they agree to it [Aadhaar Bill] being a Money Bill,” Chief Justice Khehar asked P. Chidambaram, counsel for Mr. Ramesh.

Substantive grievance

Mr. Chidambaram said the amendments were made for “weighty reasons”.

“The petitioner said this is not a Money Bill. The Rajya Sabha made the amendments and proposed it to the Lok Sabha, which did not consider them,” he submitted. Mr. Chidambaram argued that the petition highlighted a substantive grievance that “more and more Bills are now being passed as Money Bills”.

“There is a danger that every Bill will be passed as a Money Bill,” Mr. Chidambaram submitted.

Protesting this submission, Mr. Rohatgi said the Speaker was a high constitutional authority and such imputations should not be made.

Mr. Chidambaram submitted that Article 110 of the Constitution specified the grounds on which a Bill could be declared a Money Bill. One of these grounds included withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Mr. Rohatgi said the Aadhaar Bill concerned the linkage of Aadhaar facility to various welfare schemes for which money was withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund.

At one point, Justice Ramana referred to a 2014 judgment passed by the Supreme Court which had held that courts had no jurisdiction over procedural matters of the legislature.

“This petition is not about a procedural matter. There has been a substantive infraction,” Mr. Chidambaram responded.

Relook at Article 21

Mr. Rohatgi questioned Mr. Ramesh’s locus standi in filing the writ petition, saying no fundamental right of the petitioner had been violated.

“The time has come to relook Article 21 ... every petition is coming straight to the Supreme Court now,” Mr. Rohatgi said.

Noting that the Bench may be prima facie in favour of the government side, Chief Justice Khehar said the issue presented in the petition was of ‘vital importance’ and needed to be heard in detail.

The court has scheduled the case for final hearing after four weeks.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2021 1:37:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Jairam-Ramesh-takes-Money-Bill-row-to-Supreme-Court/article17296317.ece

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