New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday criticized the government’s use of ordinances to sidestep opposition to controversial bills, saying enacting legislation without discussion impacts the lawmaking role of Parliament and breaches the trust people repose in it.
“This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies relating to those laws," Mukherjee said in his address to the nation on the eve of the 66th Republic Day.
Equally, he faulted the opposition practice of continuously disrupting the parliamentary proceedings.
The observations made by the President are significant because in the crucial budget session of parliament starting 23 February, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) plans to take the ordinance route to several bills, including those seeking to raise the cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) in insurance sector to 49% and e-auction of coal mines. The BJP-led government, which came to power in May 2014, has already passed 11 ordinances.
“There can be no governance without a functioning legislature. The legislature reflects the will of the people. It is the platform where progressive legislation using civilized dialogue must create delivery mechanisms for realizing the aspirations of the people. It calls for reconciling the differences amongst stakeholders and building a consensus for the law to be enacted" said Mukherjee.
Mukherjee said the outcome of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections gave the mandate to the elected government to fulfil its commitment by formulating policies and making laws to implement those policies.
“The past year has been remarkable in many ways; particularly because, after three decades, the people have voted to power a single party with a majority for a stable government, and in the process, freed the country’s governance from the compulsions of coalition politics. The voter has played her part; it is now up to those who have been elected to honour this trust. It was a vote for clean, efficient, effective, gender-sensitive, transparent, accountable and citizen-friendly governance," the president said in his address that was televised to the nation.
Political experts feel that while it is a fact that the ruling party has adopted the ordinance route to a few pieces of legislation, Mukherjee could have avoided highlighting it in his Republic Day speech.
“I feel that although the presidential advice is important, making it a part of the Republic Day address could have been avoided. The pragmatic reason for taking the ordinance route is that the government does not have enough numbers in the Rajya Sabha, and it cannot always call for a joint sitting of the Parliament to clear crucial legislation," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst.
“With due respect to the president, this advice has already been conveyed to the government and in my opinion, there was no need of highlighting it publicly again," he added.
In his speech, Mukherjee also pointed to the need to ensure the safety of women in India, saying rape, murder, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths have made women fearful even inside their homes.
“Where have we failed, as parents, teachers and leaders, that our children have forgotten all tenets of decent behaviour and respect for women?" Mukherjee asked.
The president added that every Indian must take a pledge to protect the honour of women from violence of any kind because “only a nation that respects and empowers its women can become a global power."
Mukherjee also emphasized in his speech that the values of pluralism, tolerance and goodwill between diverse communities needed to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance.
“We have always reposed our trust in faith-equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic. Wisdom of India teaches us: unity is strength, dominance is weakness," the president said.