The continuous logjam in the Upper House where the Opposition is in a majority has prompted the government to “seriously contemplate” converting some Bills to money Bills.
Top sources in the government told BusinessLine that legislative business cannot “be held to ransom” which is why it may become necessary to convert certain Bills into money Bills.
Under Articles 108-111 and 117 of the Constitution, a money Bill does not require the assent of the Rajya Sabha for its passage. If the Upper House does not pass and return a money Bill within two weeks of being cleared by the Lok Sabha, it is deemed to have been passed.
However, this still does not solve the government’s biggest headache: clearing the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014, commonly known as the Goods and Services Tax Bill, through the Rajya Sabha.
This requires a Constitution amendment and cannot be classified as a money Bill. Nor, for that matter, will it be easy for it to convert the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 into a money Bill.
Discretion of the Speaker But a lot depends on the discretion of the Speaker, who has the exclusive right to decide on what constitutes a money Bill. There is very little scope for the Rajya Sabha Chairman to intervene in this.
It will, however, not be easy for the government to actually implement such a course of action. “Let them dissolve the Rajya Sabha,” CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said. “We shall completely oppose it and force the government to withdraw such anti-democratic steps,” he told BusinessLine .
During the Budget Session, the Government had faced tough resistance from the Opposition when the Finance Bill contained amendments to about half a dozen independent pieces of legislation passed in earlier years.
The Opposition argued in the Upper House that these laws should have been amended through an independent process rather than including them in the Finance Bill.
A joint Opposition had also approached Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who is chairman of the Rajya Sabha, against “undermining” the Upper House. The Opposition had also demanded the intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee to end the practice.