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Modi govt moved swiftly on three ordinances

Notifications sent to President on Tuesday evening through a special messenger.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi |
Updated: December 27, 2014 9:30:07 am

Even before the presiding officers informed the MPs Tuesday that the two Houses of Parliament were being adjourned sine die, the ball had already been set in motion — on Monday itself — for issuance of three politically-sensitive ordinances.

Since issuance of separate notifications regarding prorogation of the respective House by the secretaries-general of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is a prerequisite before the government can formally begin the process of issuance of an ordinance, the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker had been informally sounded Monday evening about the government’s intention to get the House prorogued Tuesday.

The Indian Express spoke to sources in Parliament and the government to piece together the manner in which the Narendra Modi government proceeded in the matter.

But, first the fact: while the government’s quick move to issue ordinances within hours of Parliament being prorogued could be termed unethical, there is nothing illegal in the move.

Under Article 123 of the Constitution, the President is empowered to promulgate ordinances on the advice of the Cabinet only when either of the two Houses is not in session to enact laws. However, before he signs on the dotted lines, the President has to be satisfied that circumstances exist that merit immediate action by way of issuance of ordinances.

In 1986, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, which examined the authority of the government to promulgate ordinances, held that the power to promulgate an ordinance must essentially be used to meet an “extraordinary situation and it cannot be allowed to be perverted to serve political ends”.

“It is contrary to all democratic norms that the Executive should have the power to make a law, but in order to meet an emergent situation, this power is conferred on the Governor and an ordinance issued by the Governor in exercise of this power must, therefore, of necessity be limited in point of time,” the bench ruled.

Once issued, all ordinances have to be mandatorily approved by both Houses of Parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they cease to operate.

On Monday as well as Tuesday, senior functionaries of the ministries of Finance, Coal and Road Transport were busy giving final touches to the three ordinances in consultation with officers of the Legislative Department in the Ministry of Law.

At 12.24 pm, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan informed the MPs that the House was being adjourned sine die. A similar announcement was made in Rajya Sabha by Chairman Hamid Ansari at 1.51 pm.

The sources told The Indian Express that within minutes of the two Houses being adjourned, the two presiding officers received written requests from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for prorogation of their respective Houses. The necessary notifications, which had already been drawn up, were signed and sent to the President in the evening through a special messenger. President Pranab Mukherjee cleared the notifications the same evening.

Senior functionaries in the government said since the Budget Session normally begins in the third week of February, the government will have time till mid-April to get the three ordinances cleared in both Houses of Parliament.

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