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The ordinance route to fighting corruption is paved with self-serving intentions.


Updated: February 26, 2014 3:58:39 am

The ordinance route to fighting corruption is paved with self-serving intentions.

The Congress’s proposal to clear five of the six bills that are seen to be part of Rahul Gandhi’s grand anti-corruption omnibus and are pending in Parliament as ordinances is an attempt to short- circuit due process with an eye on elections. As with the Lokpal act, Rahul Gandhi has thrown his weight behind legislation that concerns judicial accountability, bribery, public procurement and a citizen’s charter to ensure timely delivery of goods and services.

These are much-needed interventions that promise to dent systemic corruption in significant ways. But given that the concerted political push to these bills came only in the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha, the Congress’s last-minute ploy to appropriate the anti-corruption platform from its opponents on election-eve is obvious.

The UPA could have pressed ahead with these bills earlier — after all, the oldest, the judicial accountability bill, was introduced more than three years ago in December 2010. Even though Parliament sessions have been serially disrupted in the 15th Lok Sabha, some space could arguably have been cleared for the passage of bills with a bipartisan consensus behind them. Indeed, if the Congress could get the BJP on board a contentious issue like the creation of Telangana, persuading the opposition to rally behind anti-corruption bills might have been a far more tractable challenge.

Moreover, the Constitution allows the president to promulgate ordinances only when both Houses are not in session and if he believes “circumstances exist” which necessitate “immediate action”. It is safe to say that immediacy of the electoral cycle is not one such circumstance. The Supreme Court, too, has made it clear that the ordinance-making power should be used only in “exceptional circumstances”.

If the Congress leadership is indeed committed to weeding out corruption from the system, it should wait out the elections and lend support to the bills in the next Parliament. This rush to “brand” them as Rahul Gandhi’s laws is unseemly and does no service to what should be a bipartisan cause.

What is more, Rahul Gandhi’s own stated project to strengthen democratic and deliberative processes and institutions is undercut by his party’s effort to push the anti-graft laws through as ordinances. He would do well to tear up this proposal, reject it as “nonsense”.

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