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Friday, 24 March 2017

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Finance Bill 2017: What the Public needs to know about Aadhaar & Political Donations.


Sri. Arun Jaitley’s amendments to the Finance Bill, 2017 has been passed in Lok Sabha on the 22nd of March, 2017. A “money bill”, it will not be sent to Rajya Sabha for discussion, but only for their recommendations, which can be rejected by Lok Sabha, and then will be sent to the President of India for his assent.

Apart from introducing 40 amendments to different laws, Finance Bill, 2017 has a string of amendments that will impact a variety of existing taxation laws involving funding of political parties, use of Aadhaar, income tax returns and raids, caps in cash transaction, and a host of other issues.


There are two major worrying things in this Finance Bill, 2017. 

1) The amendments to the Finance Bill, 2017 propose to remove: 
(i) the limit of 7.5% of net profit of the last three financial years, for contributions that a company may make to political parties, 
(ii) the requirement of a company to disclose the name of the political parties to which a contribution has been made. 

In short, keeping in mind that Political Parties are exempted from RTI, a company can literally buy out an entire party and the public would be no wiser!
A token 'good', is that the Finance Bill also makes all contributions being made to the Political parties to be made electronically.

2) It has been mandatory for every person to quote their Aadhaar number after July 1, 2017, when:
(i) applying for a Permanent Account Number (PAN), or 
(ii) filing their Income Tax returns. In case a person does not have an Aadhaar, he will be required to quote their Aadhaar enrolment number, indicating that an application to obtain Aadhaar has been filed. 

Every person holding a PAN on July 1, 2017, and who is eligible to hold an Aadhaar, will be required to provide the authorities his Aadhaar number, by a date and in a manner notified by the central government. A failure to provide this number would result in the PAN number being invalidated, and the person would be treated at par with anyone who has not applied for a PAN. The government may exempt persons from this provision through a notification. 



What is the fuss with the Government asking us to get Aadhar cards you say? The Supreme Court in the case of Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) & Anr vs the Union Of India and Or [(2015)8 SCC735], via its interim order dated 11th August, 2015 clearly stated that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for all Government services till a Constitutional Bench decided on whether Aadhar violated the right to privacy.

The Ratio (applicable portion) of the Order is reproduced below;


"Having considered the matter, we are of the view that the balance of interest would be best served, till the matter is finally decided by a larger Bench if the Union of India or the UIDA proceed in the following manner:-

1. The Union of India shall give wide publicity in the electronic and print media including radio and television networks that it is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card;

2. The production of an Aadhaar card will not be condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen;
3. The Unique Identification Number or the Aadhaar card will not be used by the respondents for any purpose other than the PDS Scheme and in particular for the purpose of distribution of foodgrains, etc. and cooking fuel, such as kerosene. The Aadhaar card may also be used for the purpose of the LPG Distribution Scheme;
4. The information about an individual obtained by the Unique Identification Authority of India while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a Court for the purpose of criminal investigation."


It is important to note that the Government of India had filed a petition to amend this order, in front of a 5 judge Bench in the case of Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) & Anr vs the Union Of India and Or [ (2015) 10 SCC 92], and even there the Hon'ble 5 judge bench of the SC, by its order dated 15 October 2015, had reiterated that the Aadhaar scheme "is purely voluntary and cannot be made mandatory" till the Supreme Court ruled on the issue in its finality.

Despite this, in clear violation (and alleged contempt) of the Supreme Court's order, not only has the Finance Ministry decided to make Aadhar compulsory by what could only be termed as colourable exercise, but also the Telecom Department has issued a circular dated 23/03/2017, calling for 100% Aadhaar linked KYC within the next one year. 
It is interesting to note that the Telecom Department has issued to circular in apparent compliance with another Supreme Court order, dated 06/02/2017, in the case of Lokniti Foundation vs the Union of India (WP 607 of 2016), the Order of the Court in Lokniti Foundation, being that of a smaller Bench (2 judge) cannot be deemed to have overruled the Order of the SC in the 5 judge bench stated above. 

Finance Bill 2017 (without latest amendment suggested by Sri. Jaitley)

[Article last updated: 24/03/2017]

1 comments:

Nisha Puri said...

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