The controversy about Aadhaar as a money bill…some historical perspective

Pratik Datta, Shivangi Tyagi and Shefali Malhotra give some historical perspective and to the recent controversy.

In India, a bill usually becomes a law once it has been passed by both Houses – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – and the President assents to it. `Money bills’ are an exception. A money bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses even if it is passed only in the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha’s approval is not necessary although it can recommend amendments to a money bill. This provision of the Constitution of India is grounded in the history of the UK.

Even before the Magna Carta (1215), English Kings had bound themselves not to impose certain taxes without the consent of the common council of their realm. The King would summon the Parliament whenever a new tax was to be imposed. Over time, the Parliament became a permanent institution. The House of Lords (Upper House) and House of Commons (Lower House) developed into separate and distinct organs. With time, as trade and commerce flourished, the Commons’ contributions became the major source of revenue. So did their say in the Parliament. Consequently, the privileges of the Commons and the restrictions on the Lords in respect of imposition of charges upon people evolved organically over several centuries. Till 1911, no statute explicitly codified these privileges or restrictions.

In 1909, the Lords rejected the annual Finance Bill passed by the Commons. A government whose Finance Bill is rejected can only resign or dissolve Parliament, because without money it is impossible to govern. This prompted the enactment of the Parliament Act, 1911. The preamble of this 1911 Act explicitly states its purpose of `restricting the existing powers of the House of Lords’. Section 1(2) of this Act, for the first time, defined a money bill, one which could become a law even without the consent of the Lords. But it could contain `only’ provisions dealing with all or any of the subjects specified in that section. Additionally, section 3 gave conclusive status to the certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons as to whether a bill is a money bill. It explicitly stated that such certificate `shall not be questioned in any court of law’.

These provisions of the English Parliament Act, 1911 informed the drafting of Articles 109 and 110 of the Indian constitution, and Article 73 of Pakistan’s constitution. But there is one crucial difference. Article 110(3) of our Constitution says if any question arises whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final. Unlike the 1911 Act, Article 110(3) does not state that such certificate shall not be questioned in any court of law. Instead, Articles 122 and 212 of Constitution states that the validity of any proceedings in Parliament or a State legislature shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.

Fairly historic. Though, am still confused and not clear. Legal lingo always gets better off you..

2 Responses to “The controversy about Aadhaar as a money bill…some historical perspective”

  1. sanhita Says:

    The third author’s name is Shefali Malhotra, not Shefali Malhotr.

  2. Amol Agrawal Says:

    Thanks Sanhita. Edited the same

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