Congress moves SC on passage of Aadhaar bill as money bill in Rajya Sabha

Finance minister Arun Jaitley questioned the extent to which the opposition’s majority in Rajya Sabha can be used to block economic decision-making

Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

New Delhi: The Congress has moved the Supreme Court challenging the government decision to pass the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill as a money bill.

Senior Congress leader and former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who introduced five amendments to the bill when it was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, has filed a writ petition in the apex court.

Being a money bill, it was passed overruling the amendments moved in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government does not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha and the Congress has accused the government of tagging the Aadhaar bill as a money bill to bypass the upper House.

“Yesterday (on Wednesday), I have filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the decision to treat Aadhaar as a money bill,” Ramesh said.

The government believes that as the legislation involves expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, it is a money bill. Also, it is within the Lok Sabha speaker’s discretion to decide whether a specific legislation is a money bill or not.

A case challenging Aadhaar on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy is already before the apex court. The case has been referred to a constitution bench, which is yet to hear the case.

In an interim ruling in December, the court allowed use of the Aadhaar for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, pension schemes of the central and state governments and the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme, in addition to its use in the public distribution system (PDS) and the distribution of cooking gas and kerosene subsidies.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said the government will soon approach the Supreme Court with a request to allow the use of the unique identification number for more government services and social security programmes.

“It is Congress’s bad politics versus Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) good politics. While anyone can take legal recourse for a legislation passed by Parliament, politically the Congress approaching Supreme Court on this issue shows that it is not competing with the Modi government politically and feels it needs to be defensive in such cases,” said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst who is also Uttar Pradesh state coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

“On the other hand, I would say, pushing for such a legislation politically is of great leverage to the BJP. If the direct benefit transfer is happening through Aadhaar, the poor will benefit the most and it will send the right message. In fact, the Congress’s key worry is that the NDA is increasingly trying to project itself as a pro-poor government with such moves,” he added.

Meanwhile, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has questioned the extent to which the (opposition’s majority in) Rajya Sabha can be used to block economic decision-making.

“To what extent is our upper House going to be used to block economic decision-making... in Australia the debate is on. The UK has gone through this debate a while ago and Italy is having the same debate. Because ultimately, the weight of a directly elected House will always have to be maintained,” he said at a seminar on Thursday.

PTI and Apurva Vishwanath of Mint contributed to this story.