NEW DELHI FEB 13,
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear in detail parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh’s challenge to the passing of Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill even as the central government said the judiciary has no jurisdiction to encroach on legislative procedure in parliament where the Speaker is the final authority.
“If the Speaker says colour blue is green. We will tell her that blue is blue and not green,” Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar shot back at the Centre’s claims on the Supreme Court’s limited power of intervention in procedural matters of the legislature.
Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi for the Centre said the government saved Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50000 crore through linking thousands of subsidies to Aadhaar verification.
“Your object may be good but whether it is a Money Bill or not is the question,” Chief Justice Khehar observed.
But the Bench, also comprising Justice N.V. Ramana, asked why the Rajya Sabha had suggested amendments in the Aadhaar Bill when it was referred to it as a Money Bill.
“So by suggesting these amendments, did they agree to it (Aadhaar Bill) being a Money Bill?” Chief Justice Khehar asked senior advocate P. Chidambaram, appearing for Mr. Ramesh.
Mr. Chidambaram said the amendments were made for “weighty reasons”. “The petitioner said this is not a Money Bill. The Rajya Sabha made the amendments and proposed it to the Lok Sabha, which did not consider them,” he submitted.
Mr. Chidambaram argued that the petition highlights a substantive grievance that “more and more Bills are now being passed as Money Bills.”
“There is a danger that every Bill will be passed as a Money Bill,” Mr. Chidambaram submitted.
Protesting this submission, Mr. Rohatgi said the Speaker is a high constitutional authority and such imputations should not be made against the Speaker.
Mr. Chidambaram submitted that Article 110 of the Constitution clearly specifies the grounds on which a Bill can be declared a Money Bill. One of these grounds include withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund of India.
Mr. Rohatgi tried to counter, saying the Aadhaar Bill concerned the linkage of Aadhaar facility to various welfare schemes for which money is withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund.
At one point, Justice Ramana referred to a 2014 judgment passed by the Supreme Court which had held that courts have no jurisdiction over procedural matters of the legislature.
“This petition is not about a procedural matter, there has been a substantive infraction,” Mr. Chidambaram responded.
Mr. Rohatgi questioned Mr. Ramesh’s locus standi to file the writ petition, saying no fundamental right of the petitioner has been violated.
“Time has come to re-look Article 21… every petition is coming straight to the Supreme Court now,” Mr. Rohatgi said.
Noting that the Bench may be prima facie in favour of the government side, Chief Justice Khehar said the issue presented in the petition is of “vital importance” and needs to be heard in detail.
NEW DELHI FEB 13,