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President Cautions Government on Ordinance route

Source: Google

On January 19, President Pranab Mukherjee sent a firm message to the government when he pointed out that it has limited powers to issue ordinances or emergency executive orders. He also cautioned the government against taking the “ordinance route” for normal legislations while stressing that “growing tendency” to disrupt Parliament could lead to “paralysing policy formation”.

NDA government passed 9 ordinances after assuming office eight months ago. Recently 10th ordinance also cleared by cabinet but didn’t sent for President’s approval. See following image for all passed ordinances- 

Ordinances issued by NDA government (Source: Indian Express)
Ordinances issued by NDA government (Source: Indian Express)

“To meet certain exigencies and under compelling circumstances, the framers of the Constitution deemed it necessary to confer limited legislative power upon the Executive by way of promulgation of Ordinances when the legislature is not in session and circumstances justified immediate legislation,” President Mukherjee said in his new year address to higher education and research institutions on the topic “Parliament and Policy-making”.

Seeing his resistance, the government has decided not to bring any more ordinance before the budget session, which would witness a slew of reform oriented legislations.

He also criticized government for the repeated talks of a joint session to pass the pending legislation.

President Mukherjee said that the passage of legislations “is not practicable because I have seen from 1952 till today only four times laws were passed by joint session”.

At the same time, the President also expressed his concern at the increasing disruptions of Parliament leading to wastage of resources and time.

“The cardinal principle of parliamentary democracy is that the majority has the mandate to rule while the opposition has the right to oppose, expose, and if the numbers permit, to depose. But, under no circumstances should there be disruption of the proceedings. A noisy minority cannot be allowed to gag a patient majority,” the President said.

In a reply to a question, the President emphasised that it was incumbent on the ruling party and opposition to sit together and find a workable solution to avoid disruptions.

He also highlighted the trend of reducing sittings of Parliament because of disruptions. He gave comparisons between the sittings of first three Lok Sabhas- 677, 581 & 578 sittings- to that of last three Lok sabhas- 356, 332 and 357– to make his point.

NDA government passed its first ordinance within days of taking charge of new office to change the rules for appointment of former TRAI chairman Mr. Nripendra Misra as the Principle Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Overview of ordinances issued since 1952:

Between 1952-2014, governments issued 637 ordinances; that averages out to 11 per year or almost one ordinance a month.

  • Of these 456 were issued in about 50 years of rule and by six Prime Ministers of the Congress.
  • Record books show that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of the Congress cleared about 70 ordinances between 1952 to 1964.
    • Mrs. Indira Gandhi issued 77 Ordinances during 1971-77, at the rate of almost three ordinances every two months.
    • Mrs. Gandhi’s son Mr. Rajiv issued 35 ordinances in five years as PM.
    • All these three Congress Prime Ministers issued the many ordinances despite running governments with a majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
    • The minority Congress government of PV Narasimha Rao issued 77 ordinances in its five year term.
  • Interestingly, the Left-backed United Front government – which was supported by the Congress from the outside – passed only 61 Bills during its 1996-98 term under two PMs, HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral, but issued a record 77 ordinances at a strike rate of more than 3 per month.
  • The NDA government headed by the BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee issued 58 ordinances between 1998 and 2004, at a strike rate of almost nine per year.
  • The Manmohan Singh government or UPA I issued 36 ordinances and UPA II, with its improved numbers, issued 25. Which means UPA took recourse to ordinances six times a year in its 10-year term.

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