The National Democratic Alliance government on Friday made its plan on the contentious land ordinance clear by recommending to the President that the Rajya Sabha be prorogued to pave the way for re-promulgating the ordinance, which lapses on April 5.
“The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs met today (on Friday) and decided to recommend prorogation of the Rajya Sabha with immediate effect,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said after a meeting at the residence of Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Now, the government will have to introduce a Bill to replace the re-promulgated ordinance when the current Parliament session reconvenes after a month-long break on April 20; the land Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on March 10 stands null and void. Rural Development Minister Birender Singh has already said the government is amenable to more amendments to the ordinance. The government, in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, hopes to secure support from some non-Congress and non-Left parties by accommodating their concerns on the issue.
Earlier on Friday, Congress President Sonia Gandhi slammed the government for making a “mockery” of the consensus-building exercise, saying a “myopic” Modi government was “bending backwards” to favour industrialists. Replying to a letter by Union minister Nitin Gadkari to all opposition parties, proposing consultations, the Congress president demanded the United Progressive Alliance’s legislation be retained in totality.
Meanwhile, Janata Parivar leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, met on Friday to plan joint protests against the land Bill.
Government sources said the decision to re-promulgate the ordinance reflected the government’s commitment to its economic reforms agenda. The Constitution mandates an ordinance can only be promulgated or re-promulgated when either of the two Houses isn’t in session. The government decided against waiting until the end of the current session (May 8) to re-promulgate the ordinance. On Wednesday, the Cabinet had incorporated the nine amendments with which the Lok Sabha had passed the Bill to replace the ordinance.
To reach out to the Opposition, Gadkari had said the government was willing to include a clause that required taking the consent of 51 per cent of the farmers affected by the land acquisition, instead of the 80 per cent specified in the 2013 Act.
According to sources, the government could take a leaf out of the Gujarat land acquisition law, especially a clause on contributory land pooling in municipal areas. It might also involve expert groups with people’s representatives to examine whether the land acquired is more than required.
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When the two Houses meet again, the Upper House will start a new session, its 235th, while the Lok Sabha will continue with its Budget session.
Government sources claimed the President’s move to prorogue Parliament for the cause of an ordinance couldn’t be challenged, adding courts couldn’t question such a move. They pointed at several instances when a House was prorogued to promulgate an ordinance.
Instances of ordinances being issued after the Rajya Sabha was prorogued and the Lok Sabha adjourned sine die but not prorogued are the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Ordinance, 1987; the National Security (Amendment) Ordinance, 1987; and the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (Amendment) Ordinance.