By Kunal Rao
The Delhi High Court has dismissed a PIL filed by Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh seeking mandamus to set aside sections 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150 and 151 of the Finance Act, 2015, Section 232 of the Finance Act, 2016 and Section 208 of the Finance Act, 2018 as ultra vires the Constitution of India.
Dismissing the plea, Chief Justice Rajender Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao said: “We do not think that it is a case where this Court should exercise it’s extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.”
Senior Advocate P Chidambaram appearing for the petitioner submitted that Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was enacted on January 17, 2013 for the purposes of preventing the offence of Money Laundering and the confiscation of property derived from such offence. Before the year 2015, the Act was amended on various occasions through Ordinary Bills as defined under Article 109 of the Constitution of India. However, from the year 2015 most amendments to the PMLA have been enacted via Finance Acts as ‘Money Bills’, defined under Article 110(1) of the Constitution.
On a query raised by Court about the justifiability of the issue raised by him.
He replied: “He is challenging the amendments effected in the years 2015, 2016 and 2018 now in the year 2019 because he wasn’t aware that such Bills were passed as Money Bills. It is only, after the information was taken under Right to information Act, the picture became clear that the amendments of 2015, 2016 and 2018 were passed as Money Bills.”
Petitioner relied upon a Judgment rendered by Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. (supra) wherein a similar issue has been decided. According to him, there is no issue of limitation in challenging a parliamentary enactment, more so when the amendments are unconstitutional. It was also his submission that this Court may exercise its discretionary jurisdiction in favour of the petitioner as the amendments are unconstitutional.
On the other hand, Maninder Kaur Acharya, Additional Solicitor General stated that the present petition challenging the amendments effected in the years 2015, 2016 and 2018, that too at the behest of a person, who is not affected by the amendments, must not be entertained. She relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case reported as (2004) 6 SCC 254 Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd. v. Union of India and Anr.
“Having heard the learned counsel for the parties and considered the record, there is no dispute that the petitioner herein is a Member of Rajya Sabha. The plea of Mr. Chidambaram that the petitioner was not aware that such amendments have been carried out as Money Bills, is no reason to challenge the amendments, at least of the years 2015 and 2016 in the year 2019. In any case, merely because the petitioner came to know recently that such amendments have been carried out as Money Bills, would not justify the delay,” the bench observed.
Delhi High Court further added that Acharya is justified in relying on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd. (supra) wherein, in para 21 the Supreme Court held as under:
“21. A parliamentary legislation when receives the assent of the President of India and published in an Official Gazette, unless specifically excluded, will apply to the entire territory of India. If passing of a legislation gives rise to a cause of action, a writ petition questioning the constitutionality thereof can be filed in any High Court of the country. It is not so done because a cause of action will arise only when the provisions of the Act or some of them which were implemented shall give rise to civil or evil consequences to the petitioner. A writ court, it is well settled would not determine a constitutional question in vacuum”