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SC rules out review of Aadhaar order, with one dissent: on money Bill

The Supreme Court has dismissed petitions in search of a review of its 2018 judgment upholding the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, with Justice D Y Chandrachud dissenting saying the Court ought to wait until a bigger Bench decides the query of certification of a Bill as money Bill earlier than deciding the review petitions.

The Aadhaar Bill had been licensed by the federal government as a money Bill, enabling it to get it cleared with out getting the assent of a majority within the Rajya Sabha. A five-judge Bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had upheld the Aadhaar Act in a 4:1 ruling on September 26, 2018.

The January 11 order was given by a five-judge Bench, comprising aside from Justice Chandrachud, Justices A M Khanwilkar, Ashok Bhushan, Abdul Nazeer and B R Gavai. The majority judgment stated, “We have perused the review petitions as well as the grounds in support thereof. In our opinion, no case for review of judgment and order dated 26.09.2018 is made out. We hasten to add that change in the law or subsequent decision/judgment of a coordinate or larger Bench by itself cannot be regarded as a ground for review. The review petitions are accordingly dismissed.”

In his dissenting judgment, Justice Chandrachud stated two of the “critical questions” dealt with by the Aadhaar ruling have been “whether the decision of the Speaker of the House of People… to certify a bill as a ‘Money Bill’ under Article 110(1) is final and binding, or can be subject to judicial review; and… if the decision is subject to judicial review, whether the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (the Aadhaar Act), had been correctly certified as a ‘Money Bill’”.

The difficulty whether or not judicial review might be exercised over a call of the Speaker had arisen subsequently earlier than one other Constitution Bench in Rojer Mathew v South Indian Bank Ltd. This was within the context of whether or not some provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 (regarding appointments to tribunals and the situations of service of members), might have been licensed as a money Bill. That judgment had stated that the Speaker’s determination was not past judicial review although the scope was extraordinarily restricted. It had additionally stated that the 2018 Aadhaar verdict had not answered conclusively the query as to what constitutes a money Bill underneath Article 110 (1) and had directed that or not it’s referred to a bigger Bench.

Justice Chandrachud referred to this, saying the bigger Bench to resolve what constitutes a money Bill and the extent of judicial review over a certification by the Speaker was but to be constituted. “Dismissing the present batch of review petitions at this stage — a course of action adopted by the majority — would place a seal of finality on the issues in the present case, without the Court having the benefit of the larger Bench’s consideration of the very issues which arise before us… With the doubt expressed by another Constitution Bench on the correctness of the very decision which is the subject matter of these review petitions, it is a constitutional error to hold at this stage that no ground exists to review the judgment,” he stated, including {that a} bigger Bench’s dedication “would have an undeniable impact” on the validity of causes given by the Aadhaar ruling pertaining to the certification by the Speaker.

Justice Chandrachud additionally referred to the Sabarimala case the place a nine-judge Bench in February 2020 had referred sure questions of regulation arising within the context of an earlier determination by a five-judge Bench in September 2019 to a bigger Bench whereas protecting the review petitions pending.

“If these review petitions (in the Aadhaar matter) are to be dismissed and the larger Bench reference in Rojer Mathew were to disagree with the analysis of the majority opinion in Puttaswamy (the Aadhaar case), it would have serious consequences — not just for judicial discipline, but also for the ends of justice. As such, the present batch of review petitions should be kept pending until the larger Bench decides the questions referred to it in Rojer Mathew,” he stated.

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