‘Joint session no solution to end Rajya Sabha logjam’

A noisy minority cannot be allowed to gag a patient majority, says Pranab

January 19, 2015 04:53 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 05:20 pm IST - New Delhi

A joint session of Parliament was not a “practicable solution” to resolve a legislative impasse, President Pranab Mukherjee warned on Monday while calling upon the political establishment as a whole to ensure the passage of laws.

Addressing educational institutions by video link ahead of the budget session, the President pointed out that he had “seen since 1952 till today only four times laws were passed by [a] joint session”.

His observations come in the backdrop of disruptions during the winter session of Parliament and the Modi government’s frequent recourse to the ordinance route.

To a question on the political executive resorting to frequent Ordinances, Mr. Mukherjee said the Ordinance route should not be taken for “normal legislation”.

Pointing out that an Ordinance had to be replaced by a normal law six weeks after Parliament resumed, the President said the Government, when issuing an Ordinance, was also“taking the risk” of it lapsing.

“Ordinances are meant for a specific purpose to meet an extraordinary situation under extraordinary circumstances,” the President stressed. He was interacting with students on the theme of Parliament and policy-making.

He said Parliament must not yield its space for legislating and policymaking to mass mobilization and street-protests.

He reminded the lawmakers that the framers of the Constitution only conferred limited legislative power upon the Executive by way of promulgation of Ordinances when the legislature was not in session and circumstances justified immediate legislation.

He said that Constitution mandated replacement of such Ordinances within a timeframe by the legislators. ``Article 123 (2) provides that an ordinance must be replaced by a law not later than six weeks from the re-assembly of the two Houses,’’ he added.

The President said that Article 85 further provides that six months shall not intervene between the last sitting of one session and the first sitting of the next session.

Noting that there is a growing tendency to resort to disruption as a means of Parliamentary intervention, he said while dissent is a recognized democratic expression disruption leads to loss of time and resources, and paralyses policy formulation.

"The cardinal principle of parliamentary democracy is that the majority has the mandate to rule while 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," Mr. Mukherjee observed.

He said the Parliament must enact laws to put in places policies that address the concerns and aspirations of the people. Pointing towards India’s diversity and magnitude of its problems, he said these require that the Parliament must be conducted in a spirit of cooperation, harmony and purpose.

"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. This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies anchored in those laws," the President said.

He said that in law-making, the easy part is the act of passing a Bill (not so easy when you do not have majority!) but the harder part is the negotiations for reconciling the interests of different groups for the legislation.

Pointing out that the policymaking in India’s context is guided by its Constitution, the President said the Directive Principles of State Policy represent affirmative instructions to provide the basis for all executive and legislative action.

"While these principles are non-justiciable, they are fundamental in the governance of the country," Mr. Mukherjee said. To buttress his point, he cited the landmark 1973 judgment of the Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala which observed that both Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights are equally ‘fundamental’ even though Directives are not directly enforceable by the courts.

He said that in the past decade, people have been given entitlements for right to information, limited job security in rural areas, education and food through legal guarantees. Each legislative intervention has resulted in a shift in policy towards the objectives laid down in Constitution and in furthering human well-being, he added.

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