The Budget Session witnessed a spar between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Lefty’s Sitaram Yechury. During a debate over the Aadhaar Bill in Rajya Sabha, Yechury questioned the government’s motive behind passing the bill as a money bill in Lok Sabha.
“If subsidies are given as unquantified amounts to unidentified sections, then non-merit people will get subsidies and merit people will not get it… So, for people to get the benefit of subsidies, the production of UID or other alternative document has to be the pre-condition,” Jaitley said defending the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016.
The opposition, bristling since the proposal was controversially passed in the Lok Sabha last week, questioned the government’s right to push the bill.
“I am questioning the competence of this house to legislate the bill,” said Left parliamentarian Sitaram Yechury, arguing that the Aadhar Bill was also being considered by the Supreme Court and is beyond “the legislative authority” of the house.
Yechury said that since a five-member judicial panel is looking into the matter of whether the Aadhaar Bill is a violation of privacy, passing it is beyond the legislative capacity of the Upper House.
“Privacy is not an absolute right. The Supreme Court is considering the privacy issue. It is subject to a restriction. It can be restricted by a procedure established by law,” Jaitley countered Yechury.
“If you criticise me, it is your freedom of speech. If I criticise you, it is my intolerance?” Jaitley asked Yechury while referring to the continuing debate over intolerance.
The Aadhar Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha and it must be discussed in the Rajya Sabha within 14 days or it will be considered passed automatically.
While, the BJP government used its majority to pass the Aadhar Bill in Lok Sabha, the opposition is looking to counter the move in the Rajya Sabha by recommending changes in it. The Rajya Sabha has no power to make changes to a money bill passed by the Lok Sabha.
Deputy chairman PJ Kurien, however, made it clear that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision on the issue could not be questioned.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal raised a point of order, and said the bill was converted into a money bill wrongly.
“This bill is not fulfilling even a single condition of being a money bill. The Rajya Sabha is an independent house. We have the right to turn it down,” Agrawal said.
“We cannot give any judgment on what the (Lok Sabha) speaker has done. The constitution is very clear — the decision of the speaker is final,” Kurien said.
“I am nobody to question the speaker, neither are you. As far as I am concerned, this is a money bill,” Kurien said.