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.