File photo: Congress supporters waving party flag during a rally. (Arabinda Mahapatra)
File photo: Congress supporters waving party flag during a rally. (Arabinda Mahapatra)

In latest ordinance, Congress sees ‘terrible breach of trust’

At the heart of the conflict is The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance that was promulgated on Sunday.
PUBLISHED ON APR 06, 2021 10:23 PM IST

An ordinance to end part of India’s appellate structure has irked Congress with party leaders dashing out letters to protest “a terrible breach of trust”. They also wondered if “anything better” be expected from the NDA government.

At the heart of the conflict is The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance that was promulgated on Sunday. Congress chief whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh claimed that NDA’s parliament managers had assured the Opposition during the budget session that the bill would be sent to a standing committee for review.

In a letter to the Rajya Sabha chairman, Ramesh said, “I am not writing to you on the merits of the ordinance. All I wish to do is express my disgust at the terrible breach of faith as far as not referring the bill to the standing committee concerned.”

The legislation, piloted by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, aims to dissolve at least eight existing appellate tribunals and transfer their responsibilities to other bodies including high courts.

Jairam claimed that when the budget session was drawing to a close, government managers informed him that the bill would not be taken up for passage and would be sent to a House panel.

Congress leader Manish Tewari shot a similar letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and argued that chapter 12 of the bill introduces major amendments to section 184 of the finance bill and directly impacts the functioning and composition of 19 key tribunals.

He added that the proposed law envisages a “complete control” over the mechanisms of 19 tribunals and said, “the bill must be referred to the standing committee for a thorough review of any inherent vulnerabilities in the proposed amendments. Given the sheer degree of dilution or modification that can be done through the misuse of this power, you will surely agree that the amendments should not be hurried and must be examined.”

The NDA’s ordinance route and passing bills without review of parliamentary panels have been a matter of concern for the Opposition. PRS Legislative Research said in its report, “In the 17th Lok Sabha, so far, 11% of the introduced Bills have been referred to a committee; much lower than the 14th (60%), 15th (71%), and 16th (27%) Lok Sabhas.”

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