Even while the propriety of its food security ordinance is being debated, the UPA government is reportedly mulling bringing other ordinances just before the monsoon session starts. Media reports have quoted senior ministers indicating that the government plans to come out with ordinances to undo a recent Supreme Court verdict on the AICTE’s powers to regulate technical education and the Central Information Commission’s recent order bringing political parties within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
The ordinance-making powers of the head of the executive are a legacy of the British Raj, when the governor general was not responsible to the British parliament and was always opposed by leaders of the freedom struggle. It was retained in the Constitution despite opposition to enable the government to handle emergency situations when the legislature was not in session. Several Supreme Court judgments have subsequently indicated that even when the legislatures are not in session, the power to issue ordinance can be used only when the president is “satisfied” that there are extraordinary circumstances justifying the exercise of such a special power.
Opposition parties have a point when they described that the ordinance on food security amounts to a disregard for parliament’s supremacy and a public interest litigation has also been filed in the Supreme Court challenging it. The food security Bill had been introduced in parliament and there was no extraordinary situation to justify the resort to the ordinance route. Similar is the case with CIC’s decision on political parties and the Supreme Court’s verdict on AICTE’s powers. Important legislation having wider political and economic implications should not be rushed through without thorough discussion among lawmakers. The Centre will do well to drop any plans to bring another ordinance. Due process of lawmaking cannot be subverted for political gains.