New Delhi:  Union Minister for Finance, Arun Jaitley addresses during the inauguration of India International Footwear Fair 2016 at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi on Friday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh(PTI8_5_2016_000212B)
New Delhi: Union Minister for Finance, Arun Jaitley addresses during the inauguration of India International Footwear Fair 2016 at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi on Friday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh(PTI8_5_2016_000212B)

Says it is a ‘money bill’ over which the House has no jurisdiction

NEW DELHI : Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday tactfully scuttled the government’s embarrassment from the Opposition joining hands in the Rajya Sabha to vote a private member’s Bill for special status to Andhra Pradesh, stressing that it were a ‘money bill’ over which the House had no jurisdiction.

The Bill introduced by Congress MP Dr K V P Ramachandra Rao from Telangana in August last year to amend the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, with due assent of the President of India, and discussed in March for two days was to be just put to vote when Jaitley stepped in citing the constitutional provisions to assert it were outside the competence of the Rajya Sabha to pass the Bill.

He cited House Rule 186(7) empowering the chair to terminate the debate at any stage if not within the House competence or refer it to the Lok Sabha Speaker for deciding if he has any doubts. After an hour-long wrangle, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien stopped the voting, ruling that “since the matter is not free from doubt, he was referring it to the Speaker and till then further proceedings are deferred. He later adjourned the House for the day as the Congress members stormed the well raising slogans in protest.

Jaitley threw the spanner after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who rarely speaks, joined the debate to assert that he had made certain promises on the floor of the House on February 20, 2014 during the debate on bifurcation of the state and they were all approved by the Union Cabinet as well on March 1, 2014 and as such the government cannot escape away by not implementing the solemn commitments.

Even while asserting that the former PM’s commitment were not reconciled in the subsequent finance commission’s report, Jaitley said the government remains committed to compensate the state for the losses and resolve all issues through dialogue with the state to its satisfaction and he can only assure the House that full justice will be done.

He said he was ‘disappointing some members, including myself’ to note that the Constitution does not allow their House to take up any ‘money bill’ that requires the government expenditure out of the consolidated fund of India as that power is vested only in the House of People, i.e. the Lok Sabha.

Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad protested at Jaitley’s technical objection and said the Congress member would withdraw the Bill if the government promises to fulfill Dr Manmohan Singh’s commitments and the subsequent cabinet decision, reminding Jaitley that he had consented to the commitments as than leader of Opposition and the special status to Andhra Pradesh was also put in the BJP’s 2014 poll manifesto.

Others like CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri, Congress member Jairam Ramesh, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav and TDP’s C M Ramesh tried to argue that the basic issue was whether the assurances given y the previous government will be honoured or not, but the Deputy Chairman interrupted them to let them speak only on Jaitley’s constitutional objection to help him decide.

Ramgopal Yadav said had it been a money bill, it would not have been introduced nor consented by the President and Jaitley can’t call it illegitimate after the full discussion.

He recalled his law teacher’s advice in such piquant legal situations to use the common sense.

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