New Delhi: The Aadhar Bill, which will give central agencies access to the world’s biggest biometric database, was aggressively debated today before being sent back to the Lok Sabha on the last day before a long break in the Budget session.
The opposition in Rajya Sabha, bristling since the proposal was controversially passed in the Lok Sabha last week, argued the privacy of a billion people could be compromised and data to profile and target individuals.
“You are displaying arrogance and are not willing to listen to others,” Left parliamentarian Sitaram Yechury shouted to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Last Friday, the BJP-led government used its majority in the Lok Sabha to pass the Aadhaar Bill as a “money bill”, which means the Rajya Sabha – where the government is in a minority – cannot make changes to it.
The opposition, which has the numbers in the Rajya Sabha, has scored by recommending changes to the bill and sending it back to the Lok Sabha.
In the debate before the voting, the opposition accused the government of trying to bypassing the Rajya Sabha.
“I am questioning the competence of this house to legislate the bill,” Mr Yechury said, arguing that the Aadhar Bill was also being considered by the Supreme Court and is beyond “the legislative authority” of the house.
Mr Jaitley replied: “This is an unprecedented argument in a democracy which has the separation of powers. Court only has power of judicial review.”
“If the principle purpose is money spent out of consolidated fund of India in particular manner and machinery is created for spending that money, it is a money bill,” Mr Jaitley said.
There have been precedents in 1977 and 1978 when finance bills were returned to the Lok Sabha with suggestions. The Lok Sabha, however, rejected the amendments.
The government had earlier rejected the opposition’s rare demand to extend the sitting of the Rajya Sabha by two days to discuss the bill. The session breaks for a 39-day recess today.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, highlighting what he believed was the inevitable end result of the debate, said: “We are knocking a nail into the coffin of the Upper House. I am sure Lord Krishna had Opposition members of the Rajya Sabha in mind when he advised Arjuna – karmanye vaadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana (one must do their duty regardless of the outcome).”
The bill gives legal sanction to the unique identification number or Aadhaar as a single window to distribute subsidy and welfare schemes to citizens.