Ordinance Happy

Sep 27 2013, 03:12 IST
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SummaryThe government might want to reinvent itself as bold and decisive. But it doesn't seem to be working

There can be no doubt about it now, ordinances are in. They've come in all shapes and sizes this year, from the dramatic criminal law ordinance to your low-key, standard-issue Sebi amendment. Earlier, it seemed the government was happy just to float a new law for every issue that presented itself, but laws are so last season now. The ordinance du jour is an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, which makes short work of the Supreme Court judgment disqualifying MPs and MLAs convicted of criminal offences. It's bold, it's snappy, it says a little less conversation, a little more action please.

Strangely enough, the number of ordinances has not gone up significantly during the tenure of UPA2. Nine ordinances in 2013 is a jump from one in 2012 and three in 2011, but the figure is much lower than in the ordinance-heavy 1990s, which often saw more than 30 in a year. Why, then, does the number of ordinances seem singular only now? The difference may be that the government has used it on visible issues that generated much public debate. More importantly, the case for promulgating an ordinance—a constitutional provision to deal with an emergency when Parliament is not in session—was often tissue thin. The food security bill was passed just weeks after the National Food Security Ordinance was declared, the criminal law ordinance cut short a discussion on ways to curb sexual violence and the Representation of the People Act (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013, was ready to be discussed in the next session of Parliament.

The government might have wanted to cut a dash with its ordinances, reinventing itself as brazen, decisive. But the effect is not quite what it was going for. It might want to go back to the old classics—conversation and consensus in Parliament.

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