Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill has been a much debated question for quite some time now. In the Rajya Sabha debate on 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill, a major demand of opposition parties was that the CGST and the IGST Bill should not be brought in as a money bill. This demand is following the general observation that a lot of controversial legislation including the Aadhar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 have been classified as money bill to prevent scrutiny by Parliament.
Posing Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill is right or wrong, so we look at the Constitutional Provision with respect to Money Bill:
Article 110(1) of the Constitution lays down 6 criteria of a money bill which deals primarily with taxation, revenue and expenditure and borrowings. Article 110(2) states that any Bill which deals with collection of fines etc, or contains provisions of Article 110(1) which are incidental and not consequential will not be deemed as a money Bill. Article 110(3) says that the speaker certifies a money bill and his/her decision in this matter is final. Rajya Sabha has limited authority with respect to money bill as its recommendations are not binding on Lok Sabha.
Arguments forwarded by govt for declaring Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill:
The government while introducing the Aadhaar bill as Money bill said that the primary purpose of the bill is to prevent leakages in subsidies which is an expenditure of Union of India and hence the bill is a money bill. Detractors argued that the Bill deals with several other angles such as right to privacy, creation of UID, mandatory usage of Aadhaar which necessitates widespread discussion in both chambers of Parliament. Subsequently a writ petition has been filed in Supreme Court for challenging its classification as a money bill.
Impact of indiscriminately passing ordinary bills like Aadhaar Bills as Money Bills –
1. Affect Federalism which is one of the basic structure of Constitution. Rajya Sabha is a Federal House giving representation to states. Bypassing Rajya Sabha affects the Federal character of Indian Polity
2. Constitution has cast the Rajya Sabha in the role of second chamber, a revisory house to prevent hasty, politically motivated legislation and not as a secondary house. Further, Rajya Sabha extends the reach of democracy by involving 12 nominated individuals who represent the intellectual capital of the country. Bypassing Rajya Sabha undermines its role envisioned by the founding fathers
3. Rajya Sabha keeps a check on authoritarian character of a government that enjoys absolute majority thereby ensuring that debates, discussions are still central in the functioning of government
4. Passing off bills as money bill casts aspersion on the neutrality of the office of Speaker. Speaker has a key role to play in the smooth functioning of legislature and neutrality is a paramount quality of a speaker
5. Violates the spirit of Article 110(2)
Question of Judicial Scrutiny over Speaker’s Actions
Article 110(3) of the Constitution declares that speaker is the final authority in deciding whether a bill is a money bill. Article 122(2) of the Constitution states that the courts can’t bring under scrutiny, the action of the officer/member of Parliament, with respect to their actions regulating procedure or conduct of business in the house.
However, the Supreme Court in the past has brought the action of speaker under Judicial Review. Under the 10th Schedule, the decision of speaker on disqualification under Anti Defection Law is final. In Kihoto Hollohan v/s Zachillhu case, the court held that speaker’s decision on ADL is not final and it can be challenged on the grounds of violations of constitutional mandates, mala fides, non-compliance with Rules of Natural Justice and perversity. It went on to say that the protection of Articles 122 and 212 was only to protect the validity of proceedings from mere irregularity of procedure. However, in a similar case decided in 2014, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed a Bill to amend the Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta and Up-Lokayuktas Act as a Money Bill and did not send this to the Legislative Council. The Act was challenged (Mohd. Saeed Siddiqui v State of U.P.) but the Supreme Court decided that the decision of the Speaker “that the Bill in question was a Money Bill is final and the said decision cannot be disputed nor can the procedure of the State Legislature be questioned by virtue of Article 212”
Thus the question of application of Judicial Review over speaker’s action in declaring a money bill is not settled. It is true that certain actions have led to controversies in the near past. We need to bring some reform such as UK’s practice of appointing a committee of two senior legislators to assist the speaker over the question of money bill. In order to ensure proper functioning of Legislature, neutrality of speaker is critical and should be preserved. As the famous adage goes – “Justice should not only be done, it must also be seen to be done”. Similarly the speaker must not only remain neutral but must also be seen to be neutral.