Government defends move on Finance Act

The Centre on Thursday defended the passing of the Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill.

Arguing before a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal said the Lok Sabha Speaker’s certification of Money Bill was final. The Centre countered the allegation that the passing of Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill was a “colourable exercise of power and a fraud on the Constitution.”

The Constitution Bench is hearing a clutch of petitions, including one by Member of Parliament Jairam Ramesh, challenging certain provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 which modify the terms of appointment and functioning in various statutory tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal.

Mr. Venugopal countered that a challenge to the passing of Finance Act 2017 as Money Bill cannot be selective and be restricted to parts of the Act dealing with tribunal appointments alone. If there was a challenge, should it not be on the entire Act, he asked. The Finance Act touched on myriad of laws dealing with every aspect of governance. It covered even salaries and gratuity paid to government employees across the spectrum and thus came squarely within the ambit of a Money Bill under the Constitution, Mr. Venugopal submitted. He said a judicial review of the Speaker’s certification would amount to encroachment into legislative domain. “Nobody can challenge the bona fide of the Speaker,” he submitted. The Speaker applies her mind before certifying a Bill as Money Bill.

The petitioners have, however, argued that “mere certification of a Bill to be a Money Bill by the Speaker will not render the legislation immune from judicial scrutiny if there is a fraud on the Constitution, the democracy and the people of India.”

The Constitution Bench has decided to first delve into the primary aspect of whether the Finance Act is a Money Bill.

The petitioners have specifically challenged Sections 182, 183, 184 and 185 of the Finance Act, 2017 as well as rules framed under Section 184, referred to as the “Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (qualifications, experience and other conditions of service of members) Rules, 2017).”

Section 184 clothes the Centre with “uncanalised and unguided power to make rules to provide for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salary, allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and condition of service of chairpersons and members of several other tribunals and appellate tribunals. The petitioners said Section 184 suffered from the vice of excessive delegation.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 10:52:07 PM |

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