Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday introduced the Aadhaar Bill in the Lok Sabha with Opposition members objecting to the government’s intent to categorise it as a money Bill. A money Bill does not need the approval of the Rajya Sabha, where the government is currently in a minority.
The Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 aims to give statutory backing for transferring government subsidies and benefits and also lay down a regulatory framework to protect core biometric information of Aadhaar cardholders from any unauthorised disclosure or sharing. The Bill is the key to the government’s plan to plug leakages in disbursal of subsidies and other services and in ensuring that these reach intended beneficiaries.
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The government is also likely to move to withdraw the National Identification Authority of India Bill. That Bill was a precursor to the Aadhaar Bill introduced on Thursday and was placed in the Rajya Sabha on December 3, 2010. The earlier Bill wasn’t a money Bill and introduced in the House by the then Minister of State of Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanasamy. It was later referred to the parliamentary standing committee on finance.
As Jaitley stood up to introduce the Bill, Congress members Mallikarjun Kharge and Jyotiraditya Scindia said the government shouldn’t bypass the Rajya Sabha on an issue that affects all the 1.25 billion people of India. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan indicated that the issue would be dealt with when the Bill comes up for discussion. Kharge, however, insisted that the government should make its intent clear on the issue.
Jaitley said the current Bill was “significantly different” from the earlier Bill. He said it falls within the textbook definition of money Bill and went on to remind the Congress of Bills like juvenile justice and workman injury compensation it brought as money Bill during the tenure of its governments in the 1980s. The minister said the Bill satisfied the requirements, as laid down in Article 110 of the Constitution, for it to be categorised a money Bill. He said it was for the Speaker to certify whether it’s a money Bill or not.
Constitution expert Subhash C Kashyap said the Opposition, if it disagrees on the question of it being a money Bill, can keep its view on the floor of the House to argue that the Bill violates the relevant Constitutional provision. “It is for the Speaker, and not the government, to certify a Bill as money Bill,” he said. Kashyap, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, said the Speaker’s ruling on the subject cannot be challenged.
In the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said the Bill addresses concerns over privacy of Aadhaar data and Clause 9 of the Bill makes it clear that the Aadhaar number shall not, by itself, confer any right of, or be proof of, citizenship or domicile. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said this would save Rs 20,000 crore by avoiding subsidies being taken by the undeserving.
In the case of money Bill, the Rajya Sabha can only make recommendations but no amendments. The Upper House has to return money Bills to the Lok Sabha within 14 days from the date of receipt, failing which it is considered approved.