While Yogi Adityanath made his maiden speech in the Lok Sabha as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the government managed to pass The Finance Bill, 2017 on Wednesday with little or no opposition thanks to its introduction as a Money Bill.
Members in Parliament opposed the introduction of the Bill. On Tuesday, after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the Bill, N.K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) objected to the Bill as he said many amendments in the Bill did not fall under the purview of taxation, which is what a money Bill is supposed to be about.
This is not the first time this government has taken the Money Bill route to pass a controversial law. The NDA government chose to introduce the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 as a Money Bill. A Money Bill is one that contains provisions for taxes, appropriation of funds etc. Money Bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha, where the BJP currently has a majority, and the Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to such bills passed by the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha can suggest amendments, but it is the Lok Sabha’s choice to accept or reject them.
Another grievance of the RSP MP, supported by Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, was that the amendments were not circulated to MPs, thus not giving them enough time to study the Bill. “Just now we have received the list of amendments. 40 existing Acts are proposed to be amended by means of this Finance Bill. When the original Bill was presented on 1st February, 2017, only 8 to 10 Acts were proposed to be amended, he said.”
But Mr. Jaitley contended that “it is much ado about nothing that you say 40 laws are being amended. What is the amendment? The amendments are incidental to the Acts. In fact these amendments relates to minor changes in the original Acts.” The Minister went on to quote a ruling by the first Speaker of the Lok Sabha, G.V. Mavalankar on the word ‘only.’
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan ruled in favour of the Minister saying that parliamentary rules do not rule out the possibility of inclusion on non-taxation proposals in a Money Bill. “I have accepted this. The Finance Bill may contain non-taxation proposals also. Now another thing is no doubt every effort should be made to separate taxation measures from other matters.”
BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab raised the issue of Aadhaar numbers being linked to PAN for income tax returns stating that Members had not discussed it until then. “I fail to understand as to why Aadhar card is being linked to PAN card. This has not been discussed in the House till now.” The Minister justified it by saying that Aadhaar would reduce tax evasion.