Days after President Pranab Mukherjee cautioned the NDA government against taking the ordinance route except in “compelling circumstances”, the government is learnt to be seriously considering not sending the only pending ordinance cleared by the Cabinet — to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act — to Mukherjee for his assent.
Sources told The Indian Express that senior ministers were of the view that with the President having already indicated his aversion to signing any more ordinances and the Budget Session scheduled to start in about a month’s time, the ordinance shouldn’t be sent to Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Instead, the government could bring a Bill in the Budget Session to amend the Arbitration Act.
Addressing students and faculty of central universities on Monday, Mukherjee had said, “To meet certain exigencies and under compelling circumstances, the framers of the Constitution deemed it necessary to confer limited legislative power upon the Executive by way of promulgation of ordinances when the Legislature is not in session and circumstances justified immediate legislation. The framers also deemed it necessary to impose certain restrictions on this extraordinary legislative power by constitutionally mandating replacement of such ordinances within a time-frame by the legislators.”
Last month, the President had summoned three senior NDA ministers — Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari — to explain the urgency behind the ordinance to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. At the meeting, he had indicated his unease in promulgating so many ordinances.
The ordinance to amend the Arbitration Act, which the government was keen to push in order to send a positive signal to investors, makes it mandatory for a judge presiding over commercial disputes to settle cases within nine months.
It also makes it mandatory for a presiding officer in a commercial arbitration to clear the case within nine months. In case the arbitrator wants an extension, he would have to approach the high court. But in case of further delays, the high court would be free to debar the arbitrator from taking up fresh cases for a certain period of time.
More significantly, it puts a cap on the arbitrator’s fees, and makes it mandatory for the arbitrator to disclose if there is a conflict of interest.