UNPRECEDENTED, BUT RIGHT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Governor of Orissa has called for Assembly records pertaining to the Monsoon session that ended with cash penalty on three of the Opposition members and adoption of as many as five Bills without application of collective wisdom of both the sides. Ardent supporters of the coalition government allege that the governor has set a wrong precedent by this. We underline, he is right. He has every right to call for the Assembly records.

Article 168 of the Constitution of India provides for every State a Legislature, which consists of a Governor and a House. The Governor summons the House, prorogues the House, and dissolves the House. When he wants to address the House he has the authority to ask members to hear him.

So, Constitution of India has given the Governor inherent powers to know what happens in the House and to know if Rules, Procedures, Precedence and Ethics are properly honored.

For the first time in Orissa’s history, a Governor has wanted to know what happened in the monsoon session that ended in acrimony as we have reported.

The House was in such a state that the debates remained disrupted and dismissiveness did never diminish till end of the session. But the Treasury Benches got five of the Bills adopted.

We, and so far we alone, have said in these pages, that the Governor should refuse to give his assent to the Bills as their tenets are not tested on the matrix of opposition opinion. We are satisfied that the Governor has started looking into the matter this way.

In a democracy, the Opposition is given a position to which the Government is answerable. Without Opposition there cannot be democracy. Treasury Benches themselves cannot form a House. A House necessarily means presence of the Opposition and democratic business means participation of Opposition in its proceedings.

When the Constitution stipulates that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House, it makes it clear that the Government shall be responsible to the Opposition.

Members are governed by whips. No member of the Treasury Benches can go against the Council of Ministers because of the whip. Hence, to say that the Council of Ministers shall collectively be responsible to the House is to say that it will be so to the Opposition only. In view of this, adoption of Bills without participation of Opposition cannot be countenanced.

When the five Bills shown as adopted, there was no Para wise discussion, no elucidation of legislative intention. Ministers moved the Bills and the whip-bound members of their legislative wing supported them. Therefore, these unilateral Bills, if assented to, will be Laws by default but shall never be looked at without public discomfort.

Governor Rameshwar Thakur seems to have applied his mind well to the problem. He has summoned records of debates and points of discussions including the digitally documented proceedings for perusal. He may like to see if Speaker Maheswar Mohanty has acted impartially. He may also see if the dismissive that kept the House in quagmire till the closing day could have been avoided. But if he also sees that the Bills shown as passed by the House were not tested on Opposition matrix, it may not be much to expect that he shall refuse to give his assent.

If it happens, it can be certainly said that the Governor has taken the right step.

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