Rajya Sabha returns amended Aadhaar Bill

RSTV Bureau
Jairam Ramesh, Member Congress

Congress member Jairam Ramesh speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday returned the Aadhaar Bill back to the Lok Sabha with Amendments.

The Upper House discussed and voted on amendments moved by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, amid a walkout by members from TMC, BJD and BSP, who objected to the government’s proposal to make it a money bill.

The legislation, presented in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, will give legal validity to the unique identification number for targeted transfer of government subsidies and benefits.

The bill introduced by the UPA government in 2010 had lapsed with the Fifteenth Lok Sabha.

Opposition benches had demanded a ruling of the chair on whether the bill could be taken up. CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the bill was beyond the legislative competence of the house.

“The bill is ultra vires. It violates individual’s privacy. SC constituted a 5-member bench. It (the bill) is to subvert the judicial verdict,” said Yechury.

Members of Samajwadi Party and CPI also opposed the government’s decision to treat the Aadhaar bill as a money bill.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman ruled that the house cannot object the motion to move the bill for consideration as it has been declared a money bill by Lok Sabha Speaker and transmitted to Rajya Sabha.

“It is very clear, we are not permitted to sit on judgement on what Lok Sabha Speaker said, and the decision of the Speaker is final,” said the Deputy Chairman disposing objections raised by the members.

Responding to opposition members, the finance minister said that Parliament could not lose its right to legislate merely because an unlegislated issue was under the consideration of a court.

“UID functioned as an executive authority in the absence of legislation. Its executive status without a legislative backing is in question,” Jaitley said.

He said the bill was treated as money bill because subsidies are funded from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said he is in favour of the bill but with amendments.

“In pith and substance, it is not a money bill, however the speakers decision is final we respect it,” said Jairam.

“My party believes it is not mandatory for everyone to use Aadhaar, the bill mandates it, let the bill be confined to subsidies,” he added.

Independent MP from Karnataka, Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that bill must make it clear that Aadhaar should not be used as identity proof for non subsidy related requirements such as Passport, Drivers License

“If it is used as an Identity proof, it will amount to identity laundering by creating a trap door,” said Chandrasekhar.

While replying to the discussion Jaitley said that the core biometric information will not be shared.

“It is not mandatory, Aadhaar is entitlement and it is not the only document for identification,” said Jaitley.