Newly-appointed Law Minister Kapil Sibal seems to have advised against any undue haste in bringing the National Food Security Bill through the ordinance route, even as he found himself in the eye of a storm over the apparent “haste” he showed in giving in principle agreement for an out-of-court settlement in the Vodafone tax case.
During an inter-ministerial consultations, the Law Minister is said to have flagged out concerns about the haste being shown to kick-start the food guarantee scheme.
The Law Ministry told the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry that in the absence of a distribution and redressal mechanism required for proper implementation of the Food Bill, it was not advisable to rush in with an ordinance.
The food Bill, which the Congress President Sonia Gandhi wants to be implemented prior to the next round of state elections and the Lok Sabha polls of 2014, seeks to give 67 per cent of the population legal right to demand 5 kg of foodgrain at fixed price of `1-3 per kg from the state.
Sources said that an ordinance route can be taken when there is an emergency and not when a new concept or a brand new legislation is being introduced.
At the inter-ministerial discussion, it was pointed that the legal right cannot be granted to a citizen through an ordinance, which is basically a decree of the Executive, without prior approval of Parliament or a discussion in both Houses of Parliament. An ordinance, once promulgated, has have the approval of Parliament without which it lapses after six-months. To get the food Bill through, the government had initiated a debate on the Bill amid pandemonium created by the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Apart from the Congress, its ally NCP and its former ally TMC has taken part in the debate of which very little was heard over the din. The Law Minister has pointed out that the state governments have to be provided a list of beneficiaries and a redressal mechanism has to be set up before the Bill can see the light of the day. Another senior Congress Minister, who was a practicing lawyer, said that the ordinance can only be considered if the Bill cannot be passed during the Monsoon session of Parliament.
Despite Congress managers and spokespersons regularly dropping hints that the ordinance is always open before the government.
However, Food Minister K V Thomas has maintained that once the Bill has been introduced, it is the property of the House and therefore should be pulled out from the ordinance route.