Supreme Court of India.

SC by majority dismisses review challenging Aadhaar judgment upholding legislation through Money Bill; Justice Chandrachud dissents; calls dismissal judicial indiscipline

The Supreme Court, by a majority of 4:1, has dismissed a batch of review petitions challenging the decision of a 2018 five-judge Constitution bench upholding the Aadhaar Act, 2016 as a Money Bill.

Of the five-judge, four judges, namely, Justices AM Khanwilkar, Ashok Bhushan, Abdul Nazeer, BR Gavai, held that, in their opinion, no ground to review the 2018 judgment had been made out.

They added that a change in the law or a subsequent decision or judgment of a coordinate or larger bench by itself could not be regarded as a ground for review.

Justice DY Chandrachud dissented with the majority order and held if these review petitions were to be dismissed and the larger bench reference in Rojer Mathew case were to disagree with the analysis of the majority opinion in the Aadhaar case, it would have serious consequences – not just for judicial discipline, but also for the ends of justice.

Subsequent to the Aadhaar judgment, another five-judge bench in Rojer Mathew v South Indian Bank Ltd, referred to a larger bench of seven judges the issue and the question of Money Bill, as defined under Article 110(1) of the Constitution, and the certification accorded by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Justice Chandrachud said in the review judgment, that the correctness of the judgment in Aadhaar case, in relation to what constitutes a ‘Money Bill’ under Article 110 of the Constitution, the extent of judicial review over a certification by the Speaker of the House of People and the interpretation that had been placed on the provisions of the Aadhaar Act while holding the enactment to be a ‘Money Bill’, were issues which would need to be resolved by a yet-to-be- constituted larger bench.

Justice Chandrachud was, thus, of the opinion that review petitions should be kept pending until the larger bench decided the questions referred to it in Rojer Mathew case.

“The correctness of Puttaswamy (Aadhaar-5J.) on issues pertaining to, and arising from, the certification of a Bill as a ‘Money Bill’ by the Speaker of the House of People has been doubted by a co-ordinate Constitution Bench in Rojer Mathew. 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”, Justice Chandrachud said.

The larger bench’s determination, Justice Chandrachud said, would have an undeniable impact on the validity of the reasons expressed in Puttaswamy (Aadhaar-5J.), on the constitutional issues pertaining to and arising out of the certification by the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Rojer Mathew case was in the context of whether some of the provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 (relating to appointments to Tribunals and the conditions of service of members) could have been certified as a ‘Money Bill’ under Article 110.

Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan were part of the majority judgment in the Aadhaar case which upheld the validity of the Act, with Justice Chandrachud, in his dissent, holding the Act to be unconstitutional.

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