Lok Sabha passes Finance Bill, rejects amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha
Since the Finance Bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament as a 'money bill', the Lower House (in pic) did not have to necessarily pay heed to the recommendations made by the Upper House. Photograph: (Zee News Network)
The Lower House of India's Parliament approved the controversial Finance Bill -- a legislation that seeks to tweak 40 laws -- on Thursday (March 30).
Notably, the Lower House, also known as the Lok Sabha, rejected the five amendments recommended by the Upper House, also called Rajya Sabha.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party -- India's ruling party -- is under-represented in the Rajya Sabha. The 245-member House has just 56 BJP lawmakers and a further 18 if their allies are counted in.
But the scenario is different in the Lower House, with the ruling party having a significant majority.
And because the Finance Bill was introduced by the Modi administration as a 'money bill', the Upper House did not have the powers to shoot down the legislation. It could have only recommended changes to the bill. But the Lower House could decide whether to take the suggestions on board.
The government's plan to make changes to 40 laws, ranging from political funding to Aadhar cards, by technically bypassing the Upper House's approval was condemned by opposition groups.
The opposition slammed the government, with Saugata Roy -- a leader of an opposition party, the Trinamool Congress -- calling it a "violation of House procedures".
Congress' M Veerappa Moily called the government's decision to sidestep the Upper House as the "biggest assault on democracy".
The five amendments asked by the Upper House were related to empowerment of taxmen, political funding and rules that regulate charities run by corporate companies.
One of the controversial points in the Finance Bill was the government's plan to make Aadhar cards mandatory -- a multipurpose national identity card.
The opposition raised its concern about the government's decision, saying storing database of people had the potential to be breached by nefarious hacking groups.
But India's finance minister Arun Jaitley downplayed the concerns on Wednesday in the Upper House, saying the identity cards would help the government immensely by eliminating middlemen and sending money to the needy directly.
Removing middlemen is viewed by the government as ways to tackle corruption.
The Rajya Sabha was also worried two clauses that would seemingly empower tax officers.
Critics of the Finance Bill also point out that one of the amendments would make political funding process more opaque. Once the bill is enshrined, corporate houses won't have to name the political party they donate to in their profit and loss accounts.