Ordinance route is gross abuse of power

The promulgation of two ordinances by the government to raise the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in the insurance sector and to facilitate e-auction of coal blocks is a violation of parliamentary norms and procedures. In fact, it is not just an issue of procedure but one that questions the very role of parliament in law-making.

The government claims that it went in for the ordinances because the opposition thwarted its efforts to pass the legislation in the Rajya Sabha. The government was to blame for the logjam in the House on account of its disingenuous stand on the issue of conversions.

In any case, it was wrong to take the ordinance route to set down important policies. It amounts to denigration of parliament by bypassing it, and violates the constitutional scheme under which it is for the legislature to make laws and for executive to implement them.

In the first place, there was no hurry to issue the insurance ordinance when the budget session is to be held in two months. The bill could then have been debated in the House and duly passed. There is enough support for the bill as the Congress is in favour of it. The ordinance does not help the cause of the bill either.

No foreign entity will increase its stake in an Indian company on the basis of an ordinance. It will certainly wait for the legislation to be passed before committing any funds, because there will be problems if the ordinance lapses for some reason. The Supreme Court has criticised the practice of legislation by ordinance a number of times.

It is an emergency power to be used only in extraordinary situations. There was no such situation now. The opportunism and cynicism in the government’s action will not be missed either.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was the BJP leader in the Rajya Sabha, had criticised the UPA government’s ordinance on food security last year as “gross abuse of ordinance-making power’’. The same Jaitley is defending the NDA government’s ordinance as a demonstration of its commitment to reforms. 

It was the BJP’s mindless barracking and storming tactics that paralysed and made the 15th Lok Sabha non-functional for half of its life. It turned out to be the least productive of all Lok Sabhas, having passed only 177 bills out of 326 that came before it.

It saw the largest number of bills lapsing in the House. The obstructionist chickens are coming home to roost on parliament now. But the way out is not to bypass parliament but to respect its role.

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