The Supreme Court while referring the case on the Finance Act 2017 being passed as money bill to a larger bench, also held in its judgment that the larger bench should also look into the correctness of the Aadhaar judgment. Since the Aadhaar Act was also passed as a Money Bill.
The five judge constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprising Justices N. V. Ramana, Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna on 13 November in majority verdict of 3:2 referred the case to a larger bench to decide on the issue of Finance Act 2017 being passed as Money Bill. The two paragraphs, from the judgment, creating this doubt have been explained in detail by Bharat Chugh, Partner Designate, L&L Partners, “This has its genesis in Justice Chandrachud’s strong dissent in the Aadhaar case. The Court seems to have realised the folly that was committed while accepting the Aadhaar Act to be a ‘Money Bill’.
Justice Chandrachud, in the Puttuswamy judgment, had expressed serious reservations about the way in which the Aadhaar Act was designed and passed as a ‘Money Bill’, which, he held, was impermissible, as the Aadhaar Act, whichever way one looks at it, does not fall within the four corners of Article 110 of the Constitution, which defines what a money bill is and the definition is quite strict; for instance, Article 110 makes it clear that if a bill provides for anything that’s beyond the four corners of Article 110 of the Constitution, it can’t be called a ‘Money Bill’.
Introduction of Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill had allowed the bill to be passed through Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha was completely bypassed. Justice Chandrachud had seen this as unconstitutional and violative of the basic structure of our Constitution; Justice Chandrachud had observed that bicamerlism (two chambers in a legislative body), and the checks and balances that come with it, are absolutely non-derogable and constitute the very soul of our Constitution which can’t be subverted by any political majority, and any legislation that seeks to bypass those can be held to be unconstitutional.“
Even in the judgment passed on Wednesday, the Supreme Court held that the Rajya Sabha should not be circumvented as it reflects the plurality of the nation and balance of power. Regarding the finance act, the Centre had maintained its stand that it is a money bill since it has provisions which deal with salaries and allowance to be paid to members of tribunals from the consolidated funds of India. The petitioners had argued that just because a bill says that salaries shall be paid to the members of tribunal, it does not mean it is a money bill. Money bills are those which exclusively contain provisions for imposition of taxes and appropriation of funds out of the Consolidated Fund of India. A money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha can only make amendments to it.
The issue in both the cases is that the bill is being issued in the Lok Sabha under the guise of Money Bill so the Rajya Sabha is circumvented and its suggestions on amendments are not even considered.
On the issue of practical implications of this judgment being referred to a larger bench, Chugh told Mint that,"If the proposed seven judges bench reaches the conclusion that the Aadhaar Act could not have been characterised as a “Money Bill", it would take away the very basis of the entire Aadhaar superstructure and the legislature would have to go back to the drawing board and re-enact the law and take it through the proper legislative processes. With a view to ensure that the progress made in the Aadhaar system is not totally undone, the court can carve out a middle path where the data collected and systems put in place is allowed to be retained and the legislature may be given time to put its house in order and pass a proper law to sanctify the whole process."