The Rajya Sabha today saw the Opposition protesting against treating of the Income Tax Amendment Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, as a Money Bill, saying it amounted to "undermining" the House of Elders which will have to pass it in any case.
While raising this point, Congress members Jairam Ramesh and P Chidambaram engaged in an argument with Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, who insisted that there should be no allegations.
The issue of Taxation Laws (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2016 being treated as Money Bill was raised by Naresh Agrawal of Samajwadi Party who said the government was "undermining" the Rajya Sabha as it does not have majority in this House.
Kurien said it had not been done by the government but the decision was taken by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha under Article 110 of the Constitution.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu then said the Upper House can discuss the bill and members can also move amendments. He said such a thing had not been done for the first time but had been practised since the days of G V Mavlankar, Speaker of the first Lok Sabha.
Ramesh joined the issue, saying "As members of this House, we are not questioning Article 110 (which defines a Money Bill). We are not questioning the decision of the Speaker. The Speaker's decision is final. That is what the Constitution says. But on the 18th of November, a new twist was given to Article 110."
He said if this were to set a precedent, then "anything and everything will be a Money Bill."
As he made certain remarks, Kurien asked Ramesh not to make any allegation. "Whatever is the allegation and aspersion, that is expunged," the Deputy Chairman ruled.
Ramesh insisted that it is not a Money Bill and sought to question why it was being treated so.
"You cannot make this allegation. Sit down... You cannot criticize a ruling," Kurien told the Congress leader.
Naidu then said Ramesh was insulting the Chair. "This is something unheard of in the history of Parliament. ... He cannot make an aspersion on the Chair," he said, adding "This is unacceptable."
Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad joined in to say that Ramesh's comments are "very unfair."
Kurien said "anything criticizing the ruling of the Chair is also expunged."
Tapan Kumar Sen of CPI(M) said the issue has been discussed time and again in the House. "The other day four other Bills were amended in the name of them being Money Bills. This has been going on."
Kurien then said, "I allowed the discussion. That discussion should not be used as an excuse for criticizing the ruling of the Chair. Nor should that be used to make an allegation against the Leader of the House. I do not accept either..."
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Ramesh should apologise for saying something like that.
Chidambaram, former Finance Minister, then came to the
support of Ramesh, saying all that his party colleague had "pointed out was that you have given a ruling...."
He said "anyone can err", including the constitutional authorities like the Speaker, the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman or even judges.
"All that Mr. Jairam Ramesh points out -- and I want to support him on that -- is that there is a vast difference between a financial Bill and a Money Bill. All Money Bills are financial Bills, but not all financial Bills are Money Bills. Therefore, if the Speaker has not certified - I am taking what he said -- a Bill as a Money Bill, and if the Secretary General describes it as a financial Bill, the question is: is it a financial Bill or a Money Bill," he said.
"Now, Sir, if you have given a ruling that it is a Money Bill notwithstanding a certification, .... We earnestly urge you to reconsider the ruling. That is all," Chidambaram told the Deputy Chairman.
Kurien responded by saying, "...Mr. Chidambaram, you are a leading advocate. You should also know that even a financial Bill, the first category, cannot be introduced here. You should know that too. It can be introduced only there. That is the ruling I gave. You may see the Constitution."
Naidu then said, "I respect Mr. Chidambaram's wisdom. He is surely knowledgeable.....The comment that was made was, ... it is sarcastic, and an accusation against the Chair. How can Mr. Chidambaram support Mr. Jairam Ramesh, instead of advising him to express regret? ....It is a matter of the dignity of the House..."
Kurien said he would go through the records and expunge it but Naidu insisted that Ramesh should express regret.
Naidu maintained that "nothing has been violated" and the Congress members could not "preach" considering that what they have done.
"The Chair has given a ruling and that is the end of the matter. .... He should immediately regret....If at all he is a true parliamentarian, a seasoned parliamentarian," he said.
The Deputy Chairman then asserted that a ruling cannot be discussed or criticized.
Prasad said the "behaviour and the language used against the Deputy Chairman" is "regrettable" as it amounted to questioning the authority of the Chair.
"We also condemn the statement that the Leader of the House has ..... Repeatedly, it has been said. It is completely wrong, unconstitutional, and, I am sorry to say, they must apologize for the kind of language used against the Leader of the House....," the Law Minister said.
Kurien emphasised that "it is the tradition of the House, and the Rules also stipulate it very well, that nobody can question the ruling of the Chair. It is final."
He said Article 110 is very clear that the final authority to decide a Bill as a Money Bill is the Speaker of Lok Sabha and if the Speaker has decided it, it is final.
Ramesh then contended that the Speaker has said that it is not a Money Bill.