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2-min read

'We Respect Them But...': Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Has an Advice for Supreme Court Judges

Replying to a debate on a bill to amend law to allow voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof for opening bank accounts and obtaining mobile phone connections, Prasad said the government respects apex court judges and they too should reciprocate.

PTI

Updated:July 9, 2019, 12:02 AM IST
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'We Respect Them But...': Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Has an Advice for Supreme Court Judges
File photo of Union Communications and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (Image: LSTV/PTI)

New Delhi: Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in Rajya Sabha Monday that the Supreme Court judges should avoid "harsh words" and referred to the observations like "constitutional fraud" in the minority judgement in the landmark Aadhaar verdict.

Replying to a debate on a bill to amend law to allow voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof for opening bank accounts and obtaining mobile phone connections, Prasad said the government respects apex court judges and they too should reciprocate.

"It is a remarkable minority judgment... with all humility I want to say this in the House today. We respect Supreme Court judges but use of words such as constitutional fraud should not happen," Prasad, who is also the minister for Information and Technology, said.

He did not name the judge but his comments clearly seemed in response to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh citing a 500-page dissenting judgement by Justice D Y Chandrachud on the passage of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill in Parliament under the BJP-led government's first term .

Ramesh had quoted the judge to say that the Act "constitutes a fraud on the Constitution."

"Passing of a Bill as a Money Bill, when it does not qualify for it, damages balance of bicameralism which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution," Ramesh quoted the judge as saying.

The Supreme Court by a majority judgement had upheld passing of the Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill.

Money Bills can be introduced only in Lok Sabha and must be returned by Rajya Sabha to Lok Sabha within 14 days or the bill is deemed to have been passed by both houses in the form passed by the Lok Sabha.

The ruling NDA lacks majority in Rajay Sabha.

Also Rajya Sabha can only recommend amendments. The Lok Sabha Speaker certifies the bill as a money bill before sending it to the upper house.

"I can say with full sense of responsibility that harsh words, like constitutional fraud, must be avoided even by a lone judge, who is the dissenting judge," Prasad said in Rajya Sabha said without naming anyone.

He said the learned judge had stated that the fathers of Indian Constitution had opined that majority governments are dictatorships.

"Where did this come from," he wondered, adding he confronted the judge at the Law Day function at national capital's Vigyan Bhawan. "It is there in the judgement. And, I have to say it openly that these kinds of sweeping comments, at best, be avoided."

Defending the amendments that were necessitated by the Supreme Court ruling that held it illegal to make Aadhaar an ID proof in absence of a supporting law, he said the 12-digit biometric does not pose any threat to privacy.

He went on to cite comments by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other foreign organisations to support his view.

The Amendments, which were passed by Rajya Sabha by voice votes, were to provide legitimacy to what the Surpeme Court had said.

Prasad said any citizen cannot be denied government support for lack of Aadhaar.

"No poor will ever be deprived of his ration. All we have said is that please apply for Aadhaar but supply of foodgrains based on alternative proofs cannot be stopped, he said.

This despite Aadhaar being mandatory for release of any funds from the Consolidated Fund of India, he said.

Lok Sabha had passed the amendments last week and with Rajya Sabha's approval, the parliamentary process for making changes in the law are complete.

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