The push for ordinances was a reflection of poor floor management by the UPA. It was also unconstitutional.
The president reportedly refused to entertain the proposals for ordinances on a number of issues that the government now considers important. The main proposals related to important subjects like grievance redress, judicial accountability, etc. The president’s refusal to go the ordinance route was apparently motivated by the constitutional impropriety of promulgating ordinances when the government is going to face elections in a few weeks. This shelved the government’s flagship anti-graft measures, which it thought would bring substantial electoral dividends.
The above measures are no doubt essential to rid the administration of corruption. But these could have been brought before Parliament much earlier, after taking political parties in the opposition on board. If the Telangana bill could be passed by the present Parliament, there is no reason why these anti-graft bills could not have been passed. All that was required was deft floor management in both Houses. These could have been brought before Parliament and passed any time during the last two years as part of the normal legislative plan. If it wasn’t done, it was only because the government didn’t have a thought-out legislative plan.
There seems to have been some confusion in the public mind about how ordinances are promulgated. Article 123 of the Constitution empowers the president to promulgate an ordinance when: one, both Houses of Parliament are not in session; and two, circumstances exist that render it necessary for him to take immediate action. These circumstances can exist any time, but if they exist when both Houses of Parliament are in session, immediate legislation could meet the urgency of the situation. But if they arise when the Houses are not in session, the president can legislate temporarily, exercising his power under the above article. The necessity to take immediate action because of the circumstances is the ground on which an ordinance is promulgated. Using this power, ordinances have been promulgated even in respect of bills before Parliament. It has been justified on the ground that immediate action was necessary.
It seems, though, that the government was unable to show the existence of such circumstances when its ministers met the president. An ordinance is not and cannot be an answer to the lack of a proper legislative strategy. Anti-graft measures are necessary at all times and should have been in the statute books already. These were not to be brought before the nation after February 21 through ordinances, as if graft became serious and urgent only after the conclusion of the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha.
The media debate on the continued…