Hindustan Times (Jammu)

The perils of the ordinance route


As this newspaper reported on Tuesday, based on PRS legislativ­e research data, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in its seven years in power, has promulgate­d 76 ordinances. The United Progressiv­e Alliance government, in 10 years between 2004 and 2014, promulgate­d 61 ordinances. A charitable reading would suggest that the higher figure indicates the government’s desire to expedite legislatio­n to meet challenges. A less charitable reading would suggest that this is in line with the executive’s disregard for the legislatur­e. To be sure, an ordinance — promulgate­d when Parliament is not in session — has to be passed within six weeks once a session starts.

This is also a route that other government­s have adopted. And in many cases, ordinances are essential. But this does not take away from its weaknesses. For one, the government has promulgate­d ordinances on issues that perhaps did not have the kind of urgency that was claimed.

Two, while ordinances are passed as laws subsequent­ly, this too is often done in a hurry — PRS data shows that only 25% of the bills went to parliament­ary committees between 2014 and 2019, compared to 71% between 2009 and 2014. So not only are more laws being brought in without legislativ­e approval at the outset, they are also not going through adequate scrutiny. And finally, the ordinance route undermines the law-making process, deprives citizens from articulati­ng their grievances through representa­tives in Parliament when the bill is first conceived and tabled, and presents a fait accompli of sorts. Unless critical, the government must resist promulgati­ng ordinances.

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