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Volley Of Ordinances: Constitutional Impropriety Or A Pragmatic Measure

By Vasundhara Krishna

Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

Ordinances can be promulgated by the President on the advice of the council of ministers and prime minister when one of the two houses of the Parliament is not in session. It is exercised only when very urgent and critical circumstances prevail, such that the country cannot wait for the summoning of the parliament to debate a matter and then pass a bill. An ordinance is just like any other act of parliament; it has the same powers, and is subject to similar limitations like the judicial review and proscription of violation of fundamental right. It will lapse automatically after six weeks of parliament coming back into session in case the ordinance is not tabled in the parliament, or it can be converted to an act by passing it in the parliament with a majority vote or dismissed even before six weeks by voting. (It is only promulgated in the name of the President, in reality it is the PM and the cabinet that promulgates.)

Recently, the Modi Government has passed nine ordinances. Some of them being actually important like the amendment to the Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2003 —-as this will boost investor confidence and expedite setting up of factories that will generate employment and high GDP growth, ordinance to amend Citizenship Act— this one has been a long standing issue as there is overlapping in the definitions of PIO (person of Indian origin) and OCI (overseas citizen of India) which causes a great deal of hassle to NRIs, ordinance to regularize 895 unauthorized colonies in Delhi—this will improve the speed at which the residents of these colonies will be provided basic amenities, and a few more ordinances like e-auctioning of coal block.

However, some of them were really trivial and politically motivated like The TRAI (amendment) 2014 ordinance to facilitate the appointment of former chairman of TRAI Nripendra Mishra as principal secretary to PM, which shows abuse of the legislative power of the President of promulgating an ordinance.

The reason the government did this was that its progress in introducing reforms was being stalled by Rajya Sabha members of other political parties, as the BJP does not command majority in Rajya Sabha, but only in Lok Sabha, and to pass a bill it is important to garner majority of votes in both the houses. Discussion and debates on (these) important matters was being impeded in Rajya Sabha on the pretext that PM Modi was not giving any conclusive statement on the (religion) conversion issue, like the Ghar Vapasi event. Modi was being asked to answer questions on the conversion issue as these conversion acts are being carried out by organizations like Sangh Parivar, which is a close affiliate of the BJP.

One of the ordinances on land acquisition has made the acquisition of land much easier by postulating five sectors that will not need to go through pre-acquisition proceedings. These processes were (from which exemption has been given):

1) To take consent of 70% of the family affected by the acquisition and

2) To get social impact assessment (SIA) done. The primary motive of SIA was to ensure that the project for which land is being taken is actually beneficial to the people being displaced and in the larger interest of the society.

The sectors that have been exempted are:

  • Defense and defense production
  • Rural infrastructure
  • Industrial corridors
  • Social infrastructure projects

The compensation has remained the same and not reduced. Further measures for better rehabilitation will also be considered to be incorporated.

On one hand, it is appreciable that the government is so committed to its goal of growth and development, and the promise it made to lure investors by reducing procedural delays is being worked upon in earnest. Red tapism is being reduced. Efforts are being taken to make the ‘Make in India’ campaign a reality by attracting manufacturers, investors and entrepreneurs.

However, on the other hand it is also misusing the tool of ordinance by passing ordinances such as to induct Nripendra Mishra as the principal secretary. The government is exhibiting constitutional impropriety. It is understandable that opposition sometimes overdoes its role of opposing to the extent of impinging on the working of parliament, but the government’s most appropriate step would have been in reassuring that they are not conniving with organizations like VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad) in reconversion issues, and thereby dissolve the deadlock and proceed with normal parliamentary affairs. As it is the government will have to get the ordinances passed in the next session and then it will have to cajole the opposition into voting for it. Thus, while the passing of ordinances shows the government’s commitment to reforms, it is only a shortsighted step with a short-term solution.

Vasundhara Krishna is an economics graduate from Miranda House (DU).She enjoys delving deep into economic issues as she thinks that if ever we are to become a global power, it will be riding on the back of sound economics. She has been a sports person since childhood with a particular inclination towards Table Tennis. Also she is a movie buff who thinks there can be never too much of drama. You can reach her atvasundharakrishna18@gmail.com


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