The Odisha Legislative Assembly’s Winter Session was adjourned sine die on Sunday in only 10 days, with a whole month remaining in its schedule. With the pandemic upsetting all spheres of life since March, the legislature was set for a 40-day schedule to make up for the business days, only to end abruptly.
Its fifth session curtailed, the 16th Legislative Assembly of the state has failed to achieve the 60-day minimum sitting criteria in a calendar year. During the third and fourth sessions this year, the House had met for just 20 days in total. Effectively, in the current calendar year, the Assembly sat only for 30 days. The decision to adjourn the House, however, was not entirely uncommon.
During the 20-year rule of the BJD, the Assembly has completed the 60-day sitting only in three years. Similar precedents exist before the year 2000 too. And most often, the absence of adequate legislative business is attributed to such premature adjournment.
Expectedly, the decision to cut short the session came in for sharp criticism. Leader of Opposition Pradipta Naik walked out in protest whereas Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra dubbed it unconstitutional. The BJP legislators even took up the matter with Governor Prof. Ganeshi Lal. Both parties have accused the government of shying away from the House in face of mounting pressure from the Opposition on various issues.
In fact, the ruling dispensation has been on the back foot over shoddy police work since the Winter Session commenced. Two alleged custodial deaths aside, police inaction in the Nayagarh minor murder case has caused statewide outrage. With the name of a Cabinet minister dragged into it, the Naveen Patnaik government was forced to order an SIT probe and later requested the Orissa HC to monitor the investigation, but there has been no let-up in the Opposition heat.
The abrupt end to the Assembly session signals the nervousness of the state government on sensitive issues. More importantly, the move is against the principles of parliamentary democracy that India prides itself on. The government’s move betrays its desperation to escape accountability. Therefore, notwithstanding its brute majority in the House, it’s incumbent upon the BJD government to ensure that the legislative tradition is upheld.