SC reserves verdict on Finance Act 2017

New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Finance Act 2017 on the ground that it was passed by Parliament as a Money Bill.

A five-judge Constitution bench reserved its order on pleas that also included one challenging the Finance Act 2017 alleging that the government was taking over the powers to decide the terms and conditions of tribunal members, including their tenure.

The Centre justified the Finance Act 2017 as a Money Bill contending it had provisions that dealt with salaries and allowance to be paid to members of tribunals from the consolidated funds of India.

Appearing for a petitioner, senior counsel Arvind Datar pointed to a Finance Act 2017 provision dealing with tribunals that gave the government powers to frame rules overriding the statutory provision relating to the terms and conditions of the members of the tribunals.

Datar noted that the provision was detrimental to the independence of the judiciary and said that India was the only place where the top court had allowed it to happen.

Referring to overseas jurisdictions in different countries including South Africa and Sri Lanka, Datar said that the core judicial power being exercised by the tribunals can’t be taken away.

Datar told the court that Part XIV — dealing with tribunals was included 49 days after of Finance Act, 2017 was introduced in Parliament certified as a money bill by the Speaker on February 1, 2017. Part XIV of the Finance Act was inserted on March 22 and this was not certified as Money Bill by the Speaker, he said.

However, this was disputed by Attorney General K.K.Venugopal, who said that Part XIV too was certified by the Speaker as a part of Money Bill on March 23, when it was sent to the Rajya Sabha.

Pointing out the differing terms and conditions of services of Tribunal members, CJI Gogoi asked Venugopal, “What we have today is lack of uniformity between the tribunals and within a tribunal. Tell us how uniformity can be brought about?”

The Attorney General told the court that it could decide on the uniform terms and conditions of the tribunal members. “If the court upholds that Finance Act 2017 is a money bill and there is no excessive delegation of powers, then it can decide on the terms and conditions of the tribunal members,” Venugopal told the bench.

–IANS
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