Dubious exercise

The UPA government is reportedly planning to issue a number of ordinances to give effect to some bills which could not be passed in the last and earlier sessions of the Lok Sabha.

The bills are mainly part of an anti-corruption legislative package which the government and the Congress party have been talking about in the last few weeks. Though the whistleblower bill was passed in the budget session other bills like the right of citizens for time-bound delivery of goods and services bill, prevention of corruption (amendment) bill and public procurement bill are pending. Taking the ordinance route to create legislation is an undesirable practice. It amounts to short-circuiting regular and legitimate parliamentary procedures and diminishes the role of parliament in law-making. Courts have been critical of  the practice and the Supreme Court has even passed strictures against  governments which resorted to this.

An ordinance should be promulgated only if an exigency which calls for immediate action on the part of the government exists and there is no opportunity for enabling legislation to be enacted in parliament. No such exigency exists now. The 15th Lok Sabha has just concluded its last session and hence the ordinance is a mere eyewash. Since these bills were pending for a long time what prevented the government from pushing them earlier? It should have secured the support of the Opposition for them as in the case of the Lokpal bill or others which were considered important. While promulgation of even a single ordinance without ample justification is improper a wholesale promulgation is more so. This is especially so because it is not another session of this Lok Sabha but the next Lok Sabha which has to take up these measures and prevent them from lapsing.

The government and the Congress party perhaps want to affirm their anti-corruption credentials before the elections because corruption will be the main campaign issue in the elections. But the provision for ordinances should better not be used to serve a political purpose. In any case the ordinances will not make any great difference in the next few months. So it is better to leave the bills to be considered by the next government and taken up by the next Lok Sabha. The Congress can better show its sincerity in fighting corruption by denying tickets to those who are tainted by corruption and taking action in cases of corruption.

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