Placing Ordinance before Legislature Mandatory; Re-promulgation Fraud On Constitution: SC 7 Judge Bench [Read Judgment]
A seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Krishna Kumar Singh vs. State of Bihar has held that re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes. The court also held that the satisfaction of the President under Article 123 and of the Governor under Article 213 while issuing ordinances is not immune from judicial review.
The bench also held that the question as to whether rights, privileges, obligations and liabilities would survive an Ordinance which has ceased to operate must be determined as a matter of construction.
The majority Judgment authored by Justice DY Chandrachud held that the requirement of placing the ordinance before the Legislature is mandatory, but Justice Madan B Lokur observed that it is directory. In this context, the Chief Justice of India, in his separate concurring opinion, observed: “I would, in that view, leave the question of interpretation of Articles 123 (2) and 213(2) in so far as the obligation of the Government to place the ordinance before the Parliament/legislature open.”
Summary of the majority Judgment authored by Justice DY Chandrachud
- The power which has been conferred upon the President under Article 123 and the Governor under Article 213 is legislative in character. The power is 133 conditional in nature: it can be exercised only when the legislature is not in session and subject to the satisfaction of the President or, as the case may be, of the Governor that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action;
- An Ordinance which is promulgated under Article 123 or Article 213 has the same force and effect as a law enacted by the legislature but it must (i) be laid before the legislature; and (ii) it will cease to operate six weeks after the legislature has reassembled or, even earlier if a resolution disapproving it is passed. Moreover, an Ordinance may also be withdrawn;
- The constitutional fiction, attributing to an Ordinance the same force and effect as a law enacted by the legislature comes into being if the Ordinance has been validly promulgated and complies with the requirements of Articles 123 and 213;
- The Ordinance making power does not constitute the President or the Governor into a parallel source of law making or an independent legislative authority;
- Consistent with the principle of legislative supremacy, the power to promulgate ordinances is subject to legislative control. The President or, as the case may be, the Governor acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers which owes collective responsibility to the legislature;
- The requirement of laying an Ordinance before Parliament or the state legislature is a mandatory constitutional obligation cast upon the government. Laying of the ordinance before the legislature is mandatory because the 134 legislature has to determine: (a) The need for, validity of and expediency to promulgate an ordinance; (b) Whether the Ordinance ought to be approved or disapproved; (c) Whether an Act incorporating the provisions of the ordinance should be enacted (with or without amendments);
- The failure to comply with the requirement of laying an ordinance before the legislature is a serious constitutional infraction and abuse of the constitutional process;
- Re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a sub-version of democratic legislative processes, as laid down in the judgment of the Constitution Bench in D C Wadhwa;
- Article 213(2)(a) provides that an ordinance promulgated under that article shall “cease to operate” six weeks after the reassembling of the legislature or even earlier, if a resolution disapproving it is passed in the legislature. The Constitution has used different expressions such as “repeal” (Articles 252, 254, 357, 372 and 395); “void” (Articles 13, 245, 255 and 276); “cease to have effect” (Articles 358 and 372); and ”cease to operate” (Articles 123, 213 and 352). Each of these expressions has a distinct connotation. The expression “cease to operate” in Articles 123 and 213 does not mean that upon the expiry of a period of six weeks of the reassembling of the legislature or upon a resolution of disapproval being passed, the ordinance is rendered void ab initio. Both Articles 123 and 213 contain a distinct provision setting out the circumstances in which an ordinance shall be void. An ordinance is void in a situation where it makes a provision which Parliament would not be competent 135 to enact (Article 123(3)) or which makes a provision which would not be a valid if enacted in an act of the legislature of the state assented to by the Governor (Article 213(3)). The framers having used the expressions “cease to operate” and “void” separately in the same provision, they cannot convey the same meaning;
- The theory of enduring rights which has been laid down in the judgment in Bhupendra Kumar Bose and followed in T Venkata Reddy by the Constitution Bench is based on the analogy of a temporary enactment. There is a basic difference between an ordinance and a temporary enactment. These decisions of the Constitution Bench which have accepted the notion of enduring rights which will survive an ordinance which has ceased to operate do not lay down the correct position. The judgments are also no longer good law in view of the decision in S R Bommai;
- No express provision has been made in Article 123 and Article 213 for saving of rights, privileges, obligations and liabilities which have arisen under an ordinance which has ceased to operate. Such provisions are however specifically contained in other articles of the Constitution such as Articles 249(3), 250(2), 357(2), 358 and 359(1A). This is, however, not conclusive and the issue is essentially one of construction; of giving content to the ‘force and effect’ clause while prescribing legislative supremacy and the rule of law;
- The question as to whether rights, privileges, obligations and liabilities would survive an Ordinance which has ceased to operate must be determined as a matter of construction. The appropriate test to be applied is the test of 136 public interest and constitutional necessity. This would include the issue as to whether the consequences which have taken place under the Ordinance have assumed an irreversible character. In a suitable case, it would be open to the court to mould the relief;
- The satisfaction of the President under Article 123 and of the Governor under Article 213 is not immune from judicial review particularly after the amendment brought about by the forty-fourth amendment to the Constitution by the deletion of clause 4 in both the articles. The test is whether the satisfaction is based on some relevant material. The court in the exercise of its power of judicial review will not determine the sufficiency or adequacy of the material. The court will scrutinise whether the satisfaction in a particular case constitutes a fraud on power or was actuated by an oblique motive. Judicial review in other words would enquire into whether there was no satisfaction at all.
Dissenting opinion by Justice Madan B. Lokur
Justice Lokur, in his sole dissenting opinion, held as follows: “(i) there is no mandatory requirement that an Ordinance should be laid before the Legislative Assembly on 17 its reassembly. (ii) The fate of an Ordinance, whether it is laid before the Legislative Assembly or not, is governed entirely by the provisions of Article 213(2) (a) of the Constitution and by the Legislative Assembly. (iii) The limited control that the Executive has over the fate of an Ordinance after it is promulgated is that of its withdrawal by the Governor of the State under Article 213(2)(b) of the Constitution - the rest of the control is with the State Legislature which is the law making body of the State.”
Read the Judgment here.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.