The Centre's decision to club nearly 20 bills under the finance act as "money bill" has come under scrutiny of the Supreme Court. The decision of the Speaker to allow these as money bill has now been referred to a larger Constitution bench.
The Bench will take a call on whether the decision of the Speaker - who has to certify a bill as money bill -- was correct. If the Supreme Court gives thumbs down, the government will have to bring separate legislation for all the 19 laws passed as money bills. This also means the Aadhaar Act which was passed as a money bill, can be revisited.
The bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had also struck down rules in the amended Finance Act 2017 on tribunals and directed the government to reformulate fresh norms with respect to appointment of tribunal members.
Money bills exclusively contain provisions for the imposition of taxes and appropriation of money out of the consolidated fund. They have to be introduced in the Lok Sabha and the once passed, the Rajya Sabha can only suggest amendments, but it cannot block or reject the bill. The recommendations it makes can be accepted or rejected by the Lok Sabha.
For the government, which has a numerical advantage in the Lok Sabha but not the Rajya Sabha, this ensures easy passage for a bill that might face opposition challenge.
The selection of several bills as money bills had led to huge debates in the past. In case of Aadhaar, the matter had reached the Supreme Court.
Last year, when the validity of Aadhaar was challenged, the top court had struck down some of its provisions, but declared the law constitutionally valid. It had also upheld the passage of the Aadhaar as a money bill, though Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the five-judge bench led by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had maintained it was a "subterfuge" and a "fraud on the constitution".
In February, the Delhi High Court dismissed a plea by senior Congress leader and then MP Jairam Ramesh who had challenged the amendments made in the anti-money laundering law that was also passed as a money bill.
Today, welcoming the decision of the court, Mr Ramesh said, "Knowing fully well the Finance Act (and the Rules framed thereunder) would not pass Parliamentary Muster, the Modi Government classified it as a Money Bill so as to prevent voting in the Rajya Sabha (where at the time, they lacked the numbers)."
"I am deeply grateful to the Supreme Court for this decision. It will have far reaching consequences on any future attempts by the Modi Government to abuse the Money Bill route and is also a reminder to future Governments that any attempt at diluting our institutions will not be allowed," his statement read.