Ordinance route for Bills may embarrass Rahul
By Amba Charan Vashishth
Media is agog with reports that under intense pressure from Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, the UPA government is likely to approach the President of India for his assent for the promulgation of ordinances on anti-corruption Bills which government failed to get through in Parliament during the just concluded extended winter session. The matter is likely to be taken up with the President shortly.
An indication to this effect was given by Rahul Gandhi himself. "These bills were in national interest and we felt the opposition would help pass them. I would request the prime minister to bring ordinance on these laws, if possible," he told reporters on February 21. Everybody knows that Rahul's "request" amounts to a diktat for the party and government. Therefore, it is not wrong to presume that the government machinery must have been set in motion to realize his wish sooner than later, particularly in view of the fact that the schedule for Lok Sabha elections is likely to be announced by the Election Commission in a week or ten days. Needless to say that motivation is only the electoral interest of Congress.
Rahul is now, as BJP leaders Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley put it, a "late entrant" to jump into anti-corruption crusade. The number two in Congress hierarchy Rahul Gandhi hit a record by maintaining a stoic silence and proving himself a deliberate idler during the last four years when UPA government made history in scoring scam after scam. Whether it was 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate, Railgate and the like, Rahul Gandhi never gave vent to his views and feelings on these corruption cases which brought shame to the country. There have been a spate of corruption allegations against Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley twice challenged both Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi to open their mouth on these charges. Both preferred silence. His new-found love for honesty and probity in public life seems to have been ignited not by his conviction but by the fact that Congress suffered the worst electoral defeats in last December elections to five State assemblies and there are reports that it may have to pay heavily in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Blaming the opposition for the failure to get these bills through is ironical. This time it was more the Congress party itself than anybody else responsible for the daily disruptions in the two houses of Parliament. The fact that it was even Congress ministers and MPs who swelled to the well of the house to disrupt proceedings is an indication of the loosening of the hold of Congress supremo over her party.
Whatever it may be, Rahul attempt at the ordinance route is sure to boomerang both on him and the UPA. It may yet again meet the fate the ordinance that Dr. Manmohan Singh sent to nullify the Supreme Court judgement which had ruled that public representatives should cease to hold their posts once they were convicted in a court of law. But then Rahul jumped to save Manmohan government of embarrassment by jumping with the "nonsense" tag to the ordinance. But this time it is Rahul himself who is the hand and brain behind these ordinances. But the Constitution, tradition, past precedents and morality are not this time on the side of Rahul-inspired UPA.
Article 123 (2)(a) of the Constitution provides that an Ordinance so promulgated " shall be laid before both House of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the reassemble of Parliament…" Since the present House of Parliament is not going to reassemble and a new one will come into being in May this year, it is ethically wrong for an outgoing government to bind both the successor government and Parliament to approve an enactment in the framing of which both had no role.
Secondly, there has been no precedent or tradition to promulgate an ordinance on the eve of demitting office and a few days before the schedule for Lok Sabha elections is announced and the Model Code of Conduct for Political Parties comes into force.
Thirdly, the President too is not bound by such an advice by the outgoing Council of Ministers whose mandate is about to expire and the enactments are going to tie the hands of future governments for a law whose only merit is the electoral interests of the outgoing ruling party. Further, UPA-II is a minority government subsisting on the support of political parties like the BSP and SP from outside. Neither the government nor the President can presume their support for these measures because at different occasions they have taken a stand not supportive of the government.
It is interesting to recall that in a similar situation the then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1996 had sent two ordinances to the President for his assent — one to grant reservation to Christian Dalits and the other, to shorten the poll process. The then President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma had returned the two ordinances politely refusing to approve.
Going by these instances, the fate of any endeavour to rush through the Ordinance route for pending bills can be no different. It will just prove a new discomfiture for the beleaguered UPA.