Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : Jan - Feb 2019

Matter of Money Bill in Apex Court

The Constitution of India lays down a special procedure in respect of Money Bills and on quite a few occasions in the past as well as in recent times controversies have erupted in Parliament in regard to the categorization or certification of a Bill as a Money Bill by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Article 110 of the Constitution defines what a Money Bill is. Under that article a Bill is deemed to be a Money Bill if it contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the seven matters listed in sub-clauses (a) to (g) of clause (1) thereof, namely, (a) imposition etc. of any tax (b) borrowing power of Government (c) custody etc. of Consolidated and Contingency Funds of India (d) appropriation of moneys out of Consolidated Fund (e) declaring of any expenditure as charged on the Consolidated Fund (f) receipt of money on account of that Fund or Public Account of India or custody etc. of such money or audit of accounts of the Union or a State or (g) any matter incidental to any of these matters. The crucial word in this article is ‘only’ which means exclusively. Accordingly, if a Bill contains all or any of these matters but also other ones, the question whether such a bill is a Money Bill or not will depend on whether such matters are incidental to any of those matters listed in sub-clauses (a) to (g). However it has also been made clear in that article that a bill is not to be deemed to be a Money Bill by reason only that it provides for the imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties or for the demand of payment of fees for licences or services rendered or for the reason that it provides imposition etc of any tax by a local body or authority for local purposes. In respect of such a Money Bill the Rajya Sabha has a limited role. First, it cannot be introduced in the Rajya Saha. Second, after it is introduced in and passed by the Lok Sabha, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its consideration and recommendation, if any with a certificate of the Speaker endorsed on the Bill that it is a Bill within the meaning of article 110. Third, it is for the Lok Sabha either to accept the Rajya Sabha’s recommendation(s) or reject it (them). Fourth, the Bill has to be returned to the Lok Sabha within a period of fourteen days Fifth, if the Lok Sabha accepts the amendments recommended by the Rajya Sabha or rejects them or if the Bill is not returned to the Lok Sabha within the stipulated period, the Bill shall be deemed to have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament as originally passed by the Lok Sabha or with such amendment accepted by it, as the case may be, or if not received within the period of fourteen days, at the end thereof. { In this connection, it may be mentioned that there have been a number of instances when Money Bills have been returned by the Rajya Sabha with recommendations which were accepted by the Lok Sabha or not accepted as also there are instances when the Money Bills were not returned within the stipulated time-period } Finally, if a question arises whether a bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker thereon is final. Such questions have arisen on quite a few occasions in the Rajya Sabha n the past and in recent years. For instance, within the first two years since the inception of the Indian Parliament questions were raised in respect of the Indian Tariff (Second Amendment) Bill, 1952 and the Indian Income-tax (Amendment) Bill, 1952, certified by the Speaker as Money Bills. In fact in the latter case the controversy became so fierce as to disturb “the normal serenity of the work of Parliament. However, on both the occasions thanks to Chairman Dr Radhakrishnan’s observations in the former case and intervention of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the latter case, the matters were amicably resolved. A few years’ back recently, controversies erupted in respect of the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (imposition of Tax) Bill, 2015 (popularly known as Black Money Bill), the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill,2015 ( a Private Member’s Bill) and the Aadhaar(Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill,2016. And it is the last one of these three that landed in the Supreme Court in the form of an Act of Parliament. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 11, 2016, and transmitted to the Rajya Sabha with a certificate of the Speaker that it was a Money Bill. The Rajya Sabha returned the Bill to the Lok Sabha recommending certain amendments which were rejected by the latter on March 16, 2016. Jairam Ramesh, a Member of the Rajya Sabha filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on April 6, 2016, challenging whether the Aadhaar Act was validly enacted as a Money Bill. (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 231/2016). The Act was challenged on many other grounds also. There were as many as 27 petitions challenging the vires of the Act on different grounds. The ground of Money Bill was the 6th issue out of 10 formulated by the Court for adjudication. The verdict of the Court ran into 1448 pages and was by a majority of 4:1 after extensive hearings and detailed analysis of the Act in the light of constitutional provisions, elivered on September 26, 2018.

So far as the ground of Money Bill is concerned, the majority judgement came to the conclusion that the Bill was rightly introduced as a Money Bill while the dissenting judgement of Justice DY Chandrachud held that the Act failed to qualify as a Money Bill and its passage was an illegality being in violation of article 110 and therefore was liable to be declared unconstitutional. Justice Ashok Bhushan concurring with the majority held that the Act in substance should pass the test of being a Money Bill and not isolated provisions. Thus for the first time perhaps a central legislation came under the scrutiny of the Apex Court on the basis, among others, whether in its original avatar it was rightly or wrongly was a Money Bill and what are the contours and characteristics of a Money Bill as envisaged in article 110 and related procedures under the Constitution.

-BAZH Special

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