Context: In response to challenges against the Centre’s use of the money bill route to pass significant legislations, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud has announced the formation of a seven-judge bench. Money bills, as defined by Article 110 of the Constitution, encompass provisions related to taxation, borrowing of money, fund custody, appropriation, expenditure declarations, and more. They hold a unique status in India’s parliamentary process, with a special procedure for their passage. Only the Lok Sabha can introduce money bills, which require the President’s recommendation and the Speaker’s certification.
The Rajya Sabha can offer recommendations but cannot amend or reject them. This distinction between money bills and ordinary bills, along with the Speaker’s crucial role, has been a subject of judicial review, with the Supreme Court providing guidelines on when and how the Speaker’s decisions can be challenged, ensuring the constitutional checks and balances are upheld.
What is a Money Bills?
Article 110 of the Constitution deals with the definition of money bills. It states that a bill is deemed to be a money bill if it contains ‘only’ provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters:
- The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;
- The regulation of the borrowing of money by the Union government;
- The custody of the Consolidated Fund of India or the contingency fund of India, the payment of moneys into or the withdrawal of money from any such fund;
- The appropriation of money out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
- Declaration of any expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India or increasing the amount of any such expenditure;
- The receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of India or the public account of India or the custody or issue of such money, or the audit of the accounts of the Union or of a state; or
- Any matter incidental to any of the matters specified above.
However, a bill is not to be deemed to be a money bill by reason only that it provides for:
- the imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or
- the demand or payment of fees for licenses or fees for services rendered; or
- the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax by any local authority or body for local purposes.
If any question arises whether a bill is a money bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is final. His decision in this regard cannot be questioned in any court of law or in the either House of Parliament or even the president. When a money bill is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for recommendation and presented to the president for assent, the Speaker endorses it as a money bill.
What is the procedure for passing of money bill in parliament?
- The Constitution lays down a special procedure for the passing of money bills in the Parliament. A money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and that too on the recommendation of the president. Every such bill is considered to be a government bill and can be introduced only by a minister.
- It cannot reject or amend a money bill. It can only make the recommendations. It must return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, whether with or without recommendations. The Lok Sabha can either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha.
- If the Lok Sabha accepts any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the modified form. If the Lok Sabha does not accept any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha without any change.
- If the Rajya Sabha does not return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha. Thus, the Lok Sabha has more powers than Rajya Sabha with regard to a money bill. On the other hand, both the Houses have equal powers with regard to an ordinary bill.
Finally, when a money bill is presented to the president, he may either give his assent to the bill or withhold his assent to the bill but cannot return the bill for reconsideration of the Houses. Normally, the president gives his assent to a money bill as it is introduced in the Parliament with his prior permission.
Difference between Money Bill and Ordinary Bill
|S.N.||Money Bill||Ordinary Bill|
|1.||It can be introduced in the Lok Sabha only not in the Rajya Sabha||It can be introduced in either house of parliament.|
|2.||It can be intruded in the Lok Sabha only by a minister.||It can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member|
|3.||It can be introduced only of the recommendation of the president.||Recommendation of president is not required.|
|4.||It can’t be amended or rejected by the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha should return the bill with or without recommendations, which may be rejected or accepted by the Lok Sabha.||It can be amended or rejected by the Rajya Sabha.|
|5.||It can be detained by the Rajya Sabha for a maximum of 14 days only.||Rajya Sabha can detain it for a maximum of 6 months.|
|6.||It requires the certification of Lok Sabha speaker when transmitted to Rajya Sabha.||If it is originated in the Lok Sabha, it does not require approval of speaker when transmitted to Rajya Sabha.|
|7.||It is sent for approval of president even if it approved by the Lok Sabha only. There is no provision of joint sitting of both houses in this regard.||It is sent to the president only when it is passed by the both houses of parliament. In case of deadlock between two houses, a joint sitting of both the houses can be called by the president.|
|8.||If this bill is defeated in the Lok Sabha, then the entire council of ministers has to resign.||Its defeat in the Lok Sabha may lead to the resignation of the government if it is introduced by a member.|
|9.||It can be rejected or accepted but can’t be returned for reconsideration by the president (because earlier permission is taken from him).||It can be rejected, accepted or returned for reconsideration by the president.|
Role of the Speaker
- The speaker plays a powerful role in the matter of the money bill. If any question arises whether a bill introduced in Lok Sabha is a money bill or not then in such circumstances, the Speaker of Lok Sabha has the authority to declare and certify the bill as money bill before transmitting it to Rajya Sabha.
- The speaker is under no obligation to seek advice in this regard from anyone before arriving at any decision and his decision thereupon is final which cannot be further challenged. The purpose of certification of Money Bill is to ensure that the upper house cannot amend it by adding anything which is beyond the provisions of Article 110(1). If the speaker does not certify the bill as money bill then it will be considered just as a financial bill only.
Role of the Higher Judiciary in reviewing the Speaker’s decision:
- Article 122 explicitly bars courts from inquiring into the proceedings of Parliament. As the text of clause (1) suggests, this bar applies to any question on the ground of “irregularity of procedure”. The Supreme Court has, on several occasions, opined on the contours of this restriction.
So what has been the precedent of the Supreme Court?
- Keshav Singh’s case: It held that while legislative bodies are not subject to judicial control as far as their internal procedures are concerned, there are certain caveats to such a proposition. It was held that a court of law may question legislative procedure if the impugned action rests not on mere irregularity, but from an ‘illegality’ or ‘unconstitutionality’ of procedure.
- Ramdas Athavale v. Union of India: the Supreme Court extended that standard to article 122, as it pertains to procedural actions of Parliament.
- Raja Ram Pal v. Speaker, Lok Sabha: the Court had applied this standard to article 105 (3), which sought to import those privileges, powers, and immunities enjoyed by the House of Commons into the Indian scheme (as an interim measure, until the Indian Parliament itself legislates on those matters). This case dealt with the expulsion of certain members of Parliament, by the Speaker. A plain reading of this clause and Parliamentary practices in the House of Commons might suggest a finality to procedural decision of the Speaker in confirming the expulsion, in terms that are analogous to article 110. The Speaker’s decision was held to be open to judicial scrutiny, and the expelled members were reinstated by the Court.