SC seeks Centre’s view on Jairam Ramesh’s petition

Jairam Ramesh

Jairam Ramesh  

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the response of the government on a special leave petition filed by Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh against a February 28 decision of the Delhi High Court, rejecting his challenge to amendments enacted to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) from 2015 onwards, through Finance Acts as ‘Money Bills’.

A Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde issued notice to the government on the petition, represented by senior advocate P. Chidambaram.

Mr. Chidambaram submitted that before 2015, the PMLA was amended on various occasions through Ordinary Bills as defined under Article 109 of the Constitution. However, post 2015, the Act has been amended through Money Bills.

A Money Bill is deemed to contain only provisions dealing with all or any of the matters under clauses (a) to (g) of Article 110(1), largely including the appropriation of money from the Consolidated Fund of India and taxation. In other words, a Money Bill is restricted only to the specified matters and cannot include within its ambit any other matter.

In the High Court, Mr. Chidambaram had pointed out that amendments were made in the years 2015, 2016 and 2018, which were “per se unconstitutional and liable to be set aside”.

Justice Bobde prima facie agreed, during the short hearing, that as per the Constitution Bench decision in the Justice K.S. Puttuswamy case — dealing with the Aadhaar Act — the court had held that the decision of the Speaker on whether a Bill was a Money Bill or not, was justiciable.

When asked about Mr. Ramesh’s locus standi to file the writ petition, Mr. Chidambaram said his client is a parliamentarian.

In the High Court, Mr. Chidambram had also submitted that his client was not aware that the post 2015 amendments to the PMLA were passed as Money Bills. He had argued that it was only after the information was obtained under the Right to Information Act, the picture became clear that the amendments of 2015, 2016 and 2018 were passed as Money Bills.

Besides, the senior lawyer had argued that the Puttuswamy judgment was a recent one. According to him, there was no issue of limitation in challenging a parliamentary enactment, more so when the amendments were unconstitutional.

The government had argued in the High Court that the petition by a person not affected by the amendments, should not be entertained.

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