Govt under attack on changing status of bills

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CPI(M) MP K N Balagopal has shot off a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, accusing the government of “undermining” the Upper House by classifying certain bills as money bills so that it could clear it even if the Upper House opposes it.

The letter came amid opposition crying foul over the government repeatedly naming certain amendment bills as money bills so that could clear the Upper House hurdle where it is in a minority.

The Constitution gives Lok Sabha Speaker the power to classify a bill as money bill and once it is declared so, it does not require the clearance from Rajya Sabha. A money bill is deemed passed if the Rajya Sabha does not return it within 14 days.

Balagopal, a Rajya Sabha member from Kerala, has raised the issue with Ansari, seeking a “very serious introspection” on the matter.

“It is very important at a time when the ruling government is trying to bypass the Upper House because of their apprehension about the lack of numbers for passing every law as per their wish,” he said.

If the “wrong tendencies” to bypass Rajya Sabha for passing bills through the ‘nomenclature’ of Money Bill is not checked, it will affect the very basic structure of our Constitution and values, he said adding the Upper House “should not be helpless”.

In his letter, Balagopal said provisions of some legislation, which were cleared by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha earlier, were changed in the just concluded Budget session by bringing in amendment bills that came as money bills.

He cited the Finance Bill, which carried amendments to some independent acts, which were passed in earlier years, as an example for this. Also, the government named the Blackmoney Bill as a money bill.

Amendments in Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act 1952, Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act 1956, Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 and Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 were made part of this Finance Bill, which is a money bill.

He said these four legislations passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha earlier were amended through this Finance Bill, thus curtailing the scope and power of Rajya Sabha.

“Thus by putting some independent legislation hidden inside in the Finance Bill, the members of Rajya Sabha are denied their democratic right to vote and pass or defeat this legislation,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 15, 2015)

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