The government on Tuesday moved a Cabinet note for an ordinance to implement provisions of its proposed food security law, amid uncertainty over whether a special session to debate and pass the showpiece legislation will be achievable.
A note for “promulgation of an ordinance under Article 123” to give two-thirds of Indians a legal right to subsidised grains has been circulated, a senior official requesting anonymity said.
This heightens the possibility of the government taking the o rdinance route to give effect to the National Food Security Bill, a cornerstone of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s welfare agenda that has hit a series of hurdles.
The food bill, long in the making, could not be passed in the Budget session due to the opposition’s disruption. The government fears it may not be able to discuss the proposed legislation during the monsoon session too, unless there is such an assurance from the opposition.
“The ordinance will give effect to the core food security provisions, such as a monthly quota of subsidised grains at R3, R2 and R1 a kg of wheat, rice and millets,” the official said.
Although information minister Manish Tewari reiterated the government was keeping “all options” open, the note, a necessary administrative step, will enable the Cabinet to formally give its nod for an ordinance, possibly within the next two weeks.
An ordinance allows laws to be enacted when Parliament is not in session, although it needs to be ratified by both Houses. It is promulgated by the President under Article 123 of the Indian Constitution and has the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament.
The food security bill, as moved with amendments on May 2, provides a period of one year for states to roll it out since each state is required to appoint food commissioners to address complaints and ensure compliance.
However, since an ordinance usually takes immediate effect, the provision of a year’s layover time has to be skipped.