Addressing one of the major concerns of the Opposition on the Finance Bill, the government Wednesday assured Parliament that all judicial appointments in regulatory bodies or tribunals, many of which are being restructured at one go through provisions in the Finance Bill, would continue to be made in consultation with the judiciary. Replying to a Rajya Sabha discussion on the Finance Bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said necessary provisions in this regard would be incorporated in the rules of the legislation, when they are being framed.
Rules of a legislation stipulate how that legislation would be implemented, and are framed after the legislation has been passed by both Houses of Parliament and turned into a law. “As far as judicial members (in any of the regulatory bodies or tribunals) are concerned, you can take it from me, that their appointment would be made only in consultation with the judiciary,” Jaitley said. He had to repeat this commitment two more times as three Congress members – P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh – stood up to point out that the related provisions in the Bill under consideration did not have any such assurance.
At that point, Jaitley said the government intended to include that provision in the rules. The laws governing as many as 27 regulatory bodies and tribunals are being amended through the Finance Bill, one of the reasons why the Opposition has been calling it “draconian” and “an attempt to stifle parliamentary discussion”. The Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks a majority, does not have the power to amend or reject the Finance Bill.
This year’s Finance Bill clubs amendments not just to laws governing regulatory bodies and tribunals but also to various others, including Companies Act and Income Tax Act. The Opposition has been crying foul, calling it an “attack on Constitutional integrity”. The Opposition did manage a consolation victory in Rajya Sabha though, forcing four amendments to the Finance Bill. These amendments would have to be referred back to Lok Sabha which had earlier passed the Finance Bill.
Lok Sabha can choose to reject all the amendments made by Rajya Sabha. Three of the amendments, which were passed by comfortable majority, were moved by Digvijaya Singh while one was proposed by Sitaram Yechury of CPM. Digvijaya Singh’s amendments related to provisions to change the Income Tax Act, over which Chidambaram and Jaitley had a long sparring session.