President Pranab Mukherjee has signed 9 ordinances since May 2014 (file photo: Reuters)
President Pranab Mukherjee had a message for both the government and opposition on Monday: he cautioned the government that ordinances should only be used for “exigencies and under compelling circumstances” and not for normal legislation; he also told the opposition that it should not disrupt parliament as that paralyses policy-making.
In his new year’s address to students and faculty of central universities through teleconferencing, the president emphasised the need to build consensus in the legislative process.
“When the Parliament fails in discharging its law making role or enacts law without discussion, it breaches the trust reposed in it by the people… Parliament must not yield its space for legislating and policymaking to mass mobilisation and street protests…” Mukherjee pointed out.
His comments come weeks after he sought clarification from the government on the ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act. According to The Indian Express, the president called three cabinet ministers - Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari - on December 31 to explain to him the urgency behind the ordinance.
The NDA government has so far issued nine ordinances in the past 8 months. There have reportedly been disagreements even within the cabinet, with three ministers questioning the need for the ordinances to amend the Land Acquisition Act, to regularise e-rickshaws, and to merge PIO and OCI cards.
Seeing the president’s resistance, the government has decided not to bring in any more ordinances before the budget session in February.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces the challenge in passing reform legislation as the ruling NDA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
The president also expressed his concern at the increasing disruptions of Parliament leading to wastage of resources and time.
“The cardinal principle of parliamentary democracy is that the majority has the mandate to rule while the opposition has the right to oppose, expose, and if the numbers permit, to depose. But, under no circumstances should there be disruption of the proceedings. A noisy minority cannot be allowed to gag a patient majority,” Mukherjee said.
He also hoped that the loss in sittings of parliament due to disruptions is reversed. He compared the sittings of the first three Lok Sabhas – 677, 581 and 578 sittings – to that of the last three Lok Sabhas — 356, 332 and 357 — to make his point that disruptions have affected parliament’s functioning in the past 15 years.