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Parliament sans Democracy

The Finance Bill, 2017 lands a body blow to the ethos of our democracy.

After introducing a slew of last-minute amendments, the government’s decision to amend 40 central statutes as part of the Finance Bill, 2017, sent out a clear message. It does not believe in consultation with its political opponents. It does not have faith in independent judicial oversight. Having decried “tax terrorism” by its predecessor regime, it is unwilling to debate the powers of search and seizure by income tax officials. Above all, having waxed eloquent about the need for greater transparency in political funding it has acted in precisely the opposite manner and made India’s democracy more subservient to corporate interests.

The Finance Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha as a money bill, which in our bicameral system of governance is a type of legislation over which the lower house of Parliament has supreme authority. The government decided to make substantial and wide-ranging amendments to various laws even as the Supreme Court is yet to resolve a petition by the Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Jairam Ramesh, questioning the Lok Sabha Speaker’s classification of the Aadhaar Bill, 2016 (now Aadhaar Act, 2016) as a money bill. Without the caveat of Article 110(3) of the Constitution that authorises the Lok Sabha Speaker to have the final word on what constitutes a money bill, it would be difficult to justify such a classification of the Finance Bill, 2017. Article 110(1) of the Constitution states that a money bill can be classified as one only if it deals with taxation, government borrowings and guarantees, government expenditures, or any matters incidental to these. As a part of the annual budgetary exercise, finance bills usually fit this classification. However, the Finance Bill, 2017 far exceeded such a purview on a number of counts.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017

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