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Parliament clears Aadhar Bill without any changes, all amendments rejected

The government today made a strong pitch for the Aadhar Bill contending that the money spent by the government on account of various subsidies and welfare schemes need to reach the right people.

India TV Politics Desk [ Updated: March 16, 2016 22:29 IST ]
Aadhar Bill passed
Aadhar Bill passed

New Delhi: The Aadhar Bill 2016 today got approval from the Parliament after the Lok Sabha cleared the bill without any changes. The Bill, which was earlier introduced by the government as a money bill in the Rajya Sabha, was sent back to the Lok Sabha with five amendments move3d by COngress leader Jairam Ramesh.

The Aadhar Bill 2016 seeks to make Aadhar the basis of all disbursal of subsidy and welfare measures by the government.

While the opposition benches claimed symbolic victory over its move to send back a bill to the Lok Sabha with suggestions in a bid to embarass the government, the move turned out to be a damp squib as a money bill cannot be obstructed by the Rajya Sabha.

The Lok Sabha had cleared the Bill in Friday last week. With no binding on the Lok Sabha to adopt these changes in the Bill, the legislation was cleared without any changes. The bill was passed in the absence of Congress leaders who staged a walkout from the house.

There have been precedents in 1977 and 1978 when finance bills were returned to the Lok Sabha with suggestions. The Lok Sabha, however, rejected the amendments.The BJP-led government managed to get the bill passed in Lok Sabha on Friday last week as a "money bill", which means it cannot be blocked in the Rajya Sabha.

The changes, proposed by Congress lawmaker Jairam Ramesh, were linked to concerns over right to privacy of the individual and national security.  

The government earlier made a strong pitch for the Aadhar Bill contending that the money spent by the government on account of various subsidies and welfare schemes need to reach the right people.

The government moved the Aadhaar Bill 2016 in Rajya Sabha today. The move follows an announcement made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech for the year 2016-17.

"If subsidies are given as unquantified amounts to unidentified sections, then non-merit people will get subsidies and merit people will not get it... So, for people to get the benefit of subsidies, the production of UID or other alternative document has to be the pre-condition," Jaitley said defending the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016.

"Both central and state governments give several subsidies to people. There are monetary assistances, cost rebates, subsidies etc. given which run into lakhs of crores of rupees. These subsidies have to be quantified amounts given to identifiable sections," Jaitley added.

He said that the present bill borrows certain ideas from the UPA bill that every citizen needs to have a unique identification number but beyond that the new bill is "completely different in pith and substance" from the UPA bill.

"The previous UPA government had also brought a legislation on Aadhaar. In that bill, the purpose of the personal data and biometrics information collected through the exercise was not defined," Jaitley said.

"Compared to the UPA bill, the proposed law lays down a very strict procedure, the privacy law is much more tightened," he said.

Opposition members, however, questioned the status of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill and opposed its introduction in the Upper House on technical grounds. Deputy chairman PJ Kurien, however, made it clear that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's decision on the issue could not be questioned.

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal raised a point of order, and said the bill was converted into a money bill wrongly. "This bill is not fulfilling even a single condition of being a money bill. The Rajya Sabha is an independent house. We have the right to turn it down," Agrawal said.

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury also said that the bill itself was ultra vires of the Constitution.

"The Constitution provides for the fundamental right to life and liberty. Liberty includes privacy. This bill violates individual privacy," Yechury said.

However, the strongest counter from the Opposition benches came from Jairam Ramesh of the Congress.

Jairam questioned Jaitley on how Aadhaar is a money bill. While declaring that he supports the bill, he said that Aadhaar does not determine who is eligible and who is not and that it was only a proof of identity.

“This government should get Bharat Ratna for marketing. You have deliberately misled the House. Parliament should delegate what information can UID collect. Anybody who raises questions on Aadhaar is not anti-national, anti-technology,” he said, even as he attacked Jaitley of misleading the House.

Jaitley had defended the government’s move to term the Aadhaar legislation as a money bill, and also cited two bills, from 1983 and 1986, which were passed as money bills. These were the African Development Bank bill (passed on March 13, 1983) and the Juvenile Justice Bill (passed on August 22, 1986).  

However, Ramesh said that the two bills were not money bills, and that the government was not speaking truth in making that claim. Before Jaitley could counter the allegation, Jairam sought to put the Leader of the House on the back-foot with another claim.

“I know what the source of your information is. I too went to the Lok Sabha website, I searched, I clicked the button, I know it says these two are money bills. But then I cross-checked, I went to the Rajya Sabha secretariat, and found they are not. Websites can be wrong.”  

Jaitley later added that even at the time of this debate the Lok Sabha website maintains they were money bills. He, however, admitted that the information could be wrong.  

(With IANS inputs)

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