The Lok Sabha today passed the contentious Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other subsidies, benefits and services) Bill, 2016, even as it was sent back by the Rajya Sabha, which sought five amendments to the bill.
Showing urgency in getting the law through, the government, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, brought the measure to the lower house within an hour of being returned by the Rajya Sabha.
The government had tabled the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill, on which the Rajya Sabha does not have the power to vote and can only suggest changes.
With Lok Sabha having ignored the proposed amendments, the Aadhaar Bill is now deemed to have been passed by Parliament.
The government considers the Aadhaar bill as a significant instrument for implementing its Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) schemes by better targeting of beneficiaries but the Opposition attacked the government saying it was violating the Supreme Court direction that Aadhar card cannot be made mandatory but should only be voluntary.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who moved the bill and piloted them in both the Houses, also turned down opposition argument that Parliament cannot legislate since the matter is before Supreme Court.
Parliament cannot abdicate its duty under the Constitutional which clearly separates powers among various institutions, he said.
In last-ditch attempts, Opposition members including those from Trinamool, CPI(M) and BJD appealed to the government to respect the “wisdom” of the house of elders and accept their amendments in a democratic spirit and not to reject them on “ego”.
The government has justified its decision to frame the Aadhaar bill as a money bill, pointing out that subsidies (which will be backed by Aadhaar) are expenditure incurred by the government — money bills are primarily those that are concerning taxes, expenditure and government funds.
The opposition has said the decision to table the Aadhaar as a money bill was basically a step by the government to bypass the Rajya Sabha, and was one that undermines the Constitution.
The Congress also said it did not rule out approaching courts over the government’s decision to pass the Aadhaar as a money bill.
The erstwhile UPA government’s pet project, the Aadhaar had so far functioned under an executive order — a move that was also criticised as it did not lend enough statutory backing to an important project.
– With inputs from PTI