Congress urges Speaker not to bypass Rajya Sabha by declaring 7 key Bills as ‘money bills’

In a pre-emptive move, the Congress has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, urging him not to bypass the Rajya Sabha by declaring seven key Bills, including the one on privatising two public sector banks, as “money bills”.

The Budget session of Parliament is in recess and will resume on March 8. The Rajya Sabha has limited powers to legislate on a “money bill”. The Lok Sabha is free to accept or reject the amendments made by the Rajya Sabha on a money bill, making the Upper House’s views on the legislation irrelevant.

Listing out the seven Bills, which the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said would be brought in this session, Rajya Sabha Chief Whip for the Congress Jairam Ramesh, in the letter to Mr. Birla, wrote, “I am writing to you well in advance to humbly request you not to certify any of these Bills as ‘money bills’ under Article 110 of the Constitution.”

Aadhaar Bill issue

Mr. Ramesh’s letter reopens the debate on legislative powers of an “indirectly elected” House versus a “directly elected” one. He had unsuccessfully challenged the certification of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill in the Supreme Court. In 2018, the majority judgement upheld the money bill status of the Aadhaar legislation, with Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dissenting.

The seven Bills include the one to replace the existing University Grants Commission (UGC) with a Higher Education Commission. This Commission will specify the learning outcomes of courses, the eligibility criteria for Vice Chancellors, and order the closure of higher educational institutions that fail to adhere to the minimum standards.

The other Bills include, an amendment to the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM), the setting up of a Development Finance Institution to fund infrastructure projects, Securities Markets Code that will merge all market regulatory laws and Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act that provides insurance cover for bank account holders and amendments to bring Initial Public Offering (IPO) of LIC.

Detailed deliberations in panels

Mr. Ramesh said all these Bills needed to have detailed deliberations in the standing committees before they were passed by Parliament. The government had made it a habit to take recourse to the “money bill” route to circumvent the Rajya Sabha, he stated.

“Members of both Houses have been presented with a fait accompli in the past when important Bills that should be examined in depth have been introduced and passed as money bills straightaway,” he wrote.

The Opposition, however, does not have the requisite number in the Rajya Sabha to stall any legislation, money bill or otherwise. The BJP has 92 members and the Congress 36.

Mr. Ramesh quoted the dissenting judgement of Justice Chandrachud in his letter, which said that introducing the Aadhaar Act as a money bill had bypassed the constitutional authority of the Rajya Sabha. He went on to call it an “abuse of the constitutional process”.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 12:02:40 AM |

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