Re-promulgation of ordinances a tool for weaker coalitions

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:29 pm IST

Published - June 06, 2015 02:57 am IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet colleagues never tire of saying that theirs is the first single-party parliamentary majority in 30 years, but this has not stopped the current dispensation from deploying an instrumentality till now used only by weaker coalitions — re-promulgation of ordinances — to serve its agenda.

It began in 1993

It was the minority government of the former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, which took recourse to re-promulgating an ordinance for the first time in 1993. On January 2, 1993, the Rao government re-promulgated the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions) Amendment Ordinance, the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, and the Dentists (Amendment) Ordinance.

Barring the first two short-lived governments of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, every government since the Rao dispensation has re-promulgated ordinances; some more than the other. And, all of them were coalition governments by necessity rather than choice as is the case with the Modi dispensation.

Selective amnesia

As with ordinances, their re-promulgation is also a tool most parties have used when in government at the Centre. While the Congress was quick to term the re-promulgation of ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Ordinance’ a “breach of faith” and “travesty of justice with India’s farming community,” the grand old party appears to have developed selective amnesia about its own past record; including as recent as 2013 and 2014.

The UPA government under Manmohan Singh re-promulgated two ordinances for the second time — The Re-adjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Ordinance, and The Securities Laws (Amendment) Ordinance. The latter was re-promulgated when it was being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee just like the ‘Land Acquisition Bill’.

The record for maximum number of re-promulgations is held by the Narasimha Rao government. Towards the fag end of his tenure, just ahead of the 11 Lok Sabha elections, his government re-promulgated seven ordinances. And, six of them were re-promulgated by his successor H.D. Deve Gowda.

The Vajpayee government tread the re-promulgation route only once. The Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Ordinance, 2001, was re-promulgated once under his watch.

Wadhwa case

Ironically, the practice of re-promulgating ordinances began after the Supreme Court in 1986 observed that re-promulgation of ordinances is unconstitutional in the D.C. Wadhwa case against the Bihar government’s penchant for repeatedly re-promulgating ordinances.

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