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Govt likely to take ordinance route to bring Rahul Gandhi’s pet anti-graft laws

NEW DELHI: In a bid to signal its commitment to beefing up anti-graft laws and rights for the disabled, the Manmohan Singh government is set to bring forth four ordinances with the Centre set to prorogue Parliament’s winter session on Wednesday.

The decision to adopt the ordinance route after disruptions in Parliament and a categorical refusal by BJP to support a “last minute” attempt to pass anti-corruption bills follows an assessment that the move will pass muster with President Pranab Mukherjee.

The timing of the ordinances is crucial as they are expected to be cleared just ahead of the Election Commission announcing the Lok Sabha polls, a declaration that will bring the model code of conduct into operation.

The Centre’s urgency stems from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s disappointment over anti-corruption bills not being passed in the last session of Parliament, as the leader had, after poll defeats in major states in December, sought to align the party with the popular mood against graft.

The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs has been scheduled for Wednesday morning and the panel is set to take the decision to prorogue Parliament that was adjourned sine die on February 21.

Law ministry sources said the government has readied ordinances on four key legislations — the Judicial Standards and Accountability bill; Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Grievance Redressal bill; Prevention of Corruption (amendment) bill and the Disability Rights bill.

Political sources said the Union Cabinet will clear the ordinances this week itself. The Centre is understood to have reassured itself about Rashtrapati Bhavan green-signaling the ordinances before moving for Cabinet approval.

After the CCPA meeting, the decision has to be conveyed to the Lok Sabha secretariat which then conveyed to the President who prorogues the House.

The ordinances must get the President’s nod by this weekend as next week the Election Commission is likely to notify the parliamentary polls. After notification of elections, the code of conduct would prevent promulgation of any ordinance.

At preset, when the House is adjourned sine die, it can be reconvened at a short notice and thus doesn’t justify initiating an ordinance.

“When a house is adjourned sine die it is suppose to be in session and constitutional provision says you cannot bring in an ordinance,” said Subhash Kashyap, former Lok Sabha secretary general and a constitutional expert.

In October last year, the President had asked a few questions when the government had sought to issue an ordinance to undo the Supreme Court ruling depriving convicted MPs and MLAs of their seats in legislatures.

Finally, the government had to withdraw the controversial ordinance that was designed to allow a convicted lawmaker to retain membership of the House, minus some perks. The apex court in its ruling had said that a convicted lawmaker loses the membership of the House from the date of his conviction. UPA ally and RJD president Laloo Prasad was one of the first victims.

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