The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s petition against the passing of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money bill. The Centre, however, has questioned the apex court’s jurisdiction in the matter citing the House Speaker as the final authority in the case. The final hearing has been scheduled four weeks from Monday.
Countering the Centre’s representative Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s argument, the bench led by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar said, “If the Speaker says colour blue is green. We will tell her that blue is blue and not green,” The Hindu reported. The chief justice dismissed Rohatgi’s statement about the Aadhaar verification saving on crores of rupees and said “Your object may be good but whether it is a Money Bill or not is the question.”
However, the bench noted that it saw no cause for the challenge. Representing Ramesh, senior lawyer and Congress leader P Chidambaram expressed fears that “more and more Bills are now being passed as Money Bills.” The bench asked Chidambaram to convince them why they should interfere with the Speaker’s decision. “Tentatively, we are not with you but you can definitely convince us on the next date,” said the court, reported The Indian Express.
Parliament had on March 16, 2016, passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, which provides a legal framework to India’s unique identification project that assigns a biometric identity to all citizens. Amendments moved in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session had been overruled, because the status of a Money Bill allows the Lok Sabha to override the wishes of the Upper House of Parliament.
Critics of the law have argued that since it deals with privacy and confidentiality aspects of the personal data of millions of Indians and does not just pertain to subsidies but any government services, it should not have been passed as a Money Bill. Section 57 of the Aadhaar law allows private entities – telecom, real estate, insurance companies – to also use Aadhaar authentication services, and not just the government.