On Thursday, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the Supreme Court has set up a seven-judge bench headed by CJI Chandrachud to hear petitions filed by him challenging the unconstitutional manner in which the Modi government has passed key bills by getting them declared as Money Bills. He also said that, hopefully, the final verdict will be forthcoming soon. It is also likely to have far-reaching implications on the very functioning of Parliament itself.
“Finally, the Supreme Court has set up a seven judge bench, headed by the CJI himself, to hear my petitions challenging the unconstitutional manner in which the Modi government has passed key Bills by getting them declared as Money Bills,” Ramesh, who is also the party’s communications in-charge, said in a post on X.
Ramesh also said that he has time and again raised this issue both in Parliament and outside it, through three petitions in the Supreme Court, as it denies the Rajya Sabha the opportunity to discuss or pass amendments to key legislations. He said he had filed the first one on April 6, 2016.
“(Some) examples include the Aadhaar Bill, the Bill diluting the powers of Tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal, and the Bill to make the Prevention of Money Laundering Act more draconian,” Ramesh said. “Hopefully, the final verdict will be forthcoming soon as it will have far-reaching implications on the very functioning of the Parliament,” the Rajya Sabha MP said further.
Ramesh has challenged the amendments made to PMLA, the money laundering law, through Money Bills since 2015. Ramesh has also challenged the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill.
According to Article 110 of the Indian Cconstitution, a Money Bill is described as a Bill that has provisions regarding the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax; regulating government borrowings and financial obligations, custody, and flow of funds from the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).
The Indian Constitution says that the Money Bill is a Bill which the Rajya Sabha has no power to reject or amend. It is allowed to make suggestions but the Lok Sabha’s say is final.
The Supreme Court, in July 2022, upheld the 2019 amendments made to the PMLA, 2002; these deal with the ED’s power of arrest, attachment, search and seizure.
The apex court said, while observing that Parliament had the power to make these amendments, that the Parliament enacted PMLA as a consequence of the international commitment to sternly deal with the menace of money laundering.
However, the Supreme Court has left the question of deciding whether the said amendments could be brought in as a Money Bill on the soon-to-be constituted Constitutional Bench made up of seven judges. This followed the Centre bringing in the changes through the Finance Act 2019.
In the event of the bench deciding that the 2019 amendments could not have been brought in as a Money Bill, these amendments would become invalid. The mandate of the seven judge constitutional bench is to address the question of whether or not the Acts mentioned above could have been brought in as Money Bill(s).