Governor should refuse assent to Orissa Official Language (Amendment) Bill

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Official Language (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 was authored by bureaucracy on 21 May 2016 in a haphazard manner and was promulgated the same day. In a Bill form it was placed before the Legislative Assembly on 27 September 2016 in the exact shape that the bureaucracy had given it. The Assembly has passed it on 28 September without any change. On 6 October 2016, the State Cabinet has “approved” it. It shall become the law when the governor gives his assent to it.
The Governor should refuse to give his assent to this bad Bill, wrongfully passed in the Assembly. If he gives the assent, that would be mockery of his legislative power.

Let me elaborate.

Section 66-A in sub-section (1) of the ‘Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Orissa Legislative Assembly’ stipulates, “Whenever a Bill seeking to replace an Ordinance with or without modification is introduced in the House, there shall be placed before the House along with the Bill a Statement explaining the circumstances which had necessitated immediate legislation by ordinance”. This explanation is totally absent in the Objects and Reasons of the Bill. Hence the Bill was not submitted in proper form.

The purpose of the Section 66-A(1) is to stop misuse of Ordinance making power of the government behind back of the Assembly. The Government owes its origin to a political party and therefore, may make partisan Laws through Ordinances to the disadvantage of the people as a whole.

Therefore, the Assembly, which is constituted by the whole of the population and represents the entire population of the State has created this Rule to ensure that the government of a single party or an alliance of one or more other parties, works under its control by explaining as to what was the urgent and unavoidable situation that had forced the government to bring out the Ordinance.

If the “circumstances which had necessitated immediate legislation by ordinance” was not explained by the Government in the statutory statement, the Bill i.e. Orissa Official Language (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeking replacement of the Ordinance should not have been accepted. But, the members passed the Bill without any objection.

In the “Statement explaining the Circumstances which had necessitated immediate Legislation by an Ordinance”, the Chief Minister has willfully omitted the “Circumstances”; because, there lies the crux of the issue.

The Chief Minister knows of the “circumstances” personally, because he had created a Ministerial Committee to remove all obstacles from the path of implementation of the OOL Act, 1954. He knows that this writer, as a member of that Ministerial Committee created under Resolution bearing the No. GAD-Code-Cordes-0013-2015-18715/GA dt.31.07.2015, had submitted a set of draft legislation for (1) amendment of the Act to enable the government to frame Rules, as the government had no power under the Act to frame Rules to drive the Act ahead; and (2) a set of Rules containing provisions for punishment against contravention of the Act on responsibility fixation and adjudication amongst other most necessary provisions for the unfailing use of Oriya as Official Language and language of development. Keeping this in mind, he had told the House on 14. 12. 2015 in answering UDAQ No. 2325 of Sri Nabakishore Das (Congress) that the Law department was working on the necessary legislation.

For reasons best known to himself, the CM abandoned this position and and after only two days, on 17.12.2016 using the name of the Ministerial Committee declared a 9-point program as all that could mean governance of Orissa in Oriya. The next day bureaucracy expanded the same to 14-points. After ORISSA MATTERS exposed the mischief, a meeting of the Ministerial Committee was organized on 12, 01.2016 with the same 14 points placed in the agenda for discussion. There was no trace of the suggested amendment to the Official Language Act, which alone was addressing the Term of Reference under the Resolution said supra. All the 14 items in the agenda was congenial to business interest of a private organization, which was a party to a MoU with the government signed on 20. 03.2015. Suppressing this truth, lobbyists and functionaries of this private operator of language business had entered into the Ministerial Committee in majority and with their help, the government run by anti-Oriya elements, was trying to evade the issue, i. e. provision of punishment to whosoever functionary contravenes the Official Language Act.

It was clear that the government shall not amend the Act and create the provisions for punishment, because of the lack of which, the Act having been created in 1954 and the enforcing Notification having been finally promulgated on 29. 03.185, governance of Orissa in Oriya had not been possible.

This situation gave birth to the Bhasha Andolan, Orissa.

With ultimatum served on the Government, in support of the proposed legislation advanced by this author, Black Flag march commenced on 13.04.2016. Everyday, at 5 P.M., four eminent Oriyas were starting from the eastern gate of the Assembly where there is a statue of Nabakrushna Chowdhury, Orissa’s first Chief Minister, who had created the Official Language Act and marching up to the Governor’s house where there is a statue of the Kula Gourav Madhu Sudan Das whose matchless leadership and sacrifices created Orissa, the first linguistic State of India. History has not witnessed such a very principled and unique movement. By 21.05.2016 the whole of Orissa had woken up in support of this movement and its demand for punishment to whosoever contravenes the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954.

Under such extraordinary circumstances it was necessitated to bring out the immediate legislation by an Ordinance.

The government is guilty of suppression of this vital information in its statement under Section 66-A (1) of the Rules of Procedure as noted supra.

There is another serious suppression of fact too.

After promulgating the Ordinance that empowered the government to frame the Rules, no Rules were immediately framed. The Government slept over for a long period till 12.8.2016 to frame the Rule. Bhasha Andolan has rejected it, as there is no provision of punishment against contravention of the Act, when the Rules carry only a single purpose of protecting the contraveners under a cover of a monitoring committee comprising 6 ex-officio members from the pool of bureaucrats that are habitual offenders of the Act.

This was entirely suppressed, because, had it been informed to the Assembly through the Statement, it is such a farce of a legal instrument that no sane M.L.A. could have approved it.

Over and above this, if the Bill had not been passed, the Rules created under the Ordinance would have certainly collapsed, which should have severely embarrassed the scheming non-Oriyas in the bureaucracy. So, deliberately such very vital information was suppressed.

This willful suppression of facts, rather the circumstances which had necessitated immediate legislation by an Ordinance, makes the Orissa Official Language (Amendment) Bill inherently defective.

A more serious offense also needs attention of the Governor.

The Oriya version of the Bill is deemed to have been passed along with the English version of the Bill. The Leader of Opposition has rightly pointed out that the Oriya version is ambiguous and incorrect. Assent to the Bill would mean assent to the ambiguous and incorrect Oriya version of the Bill.

It would be better to appreciate that legislative wisdom has not been applied to the farcical Bill in question. The Ordinance was created by bureaucracy, which has no legislative wisdom. The M.L.A.s have passed the Bill sans any amendment. Thus the Bill, despite being discussed in the Assembly, does not carry even an iota of legislative wisdom.

It is better, therefore, for the Governor to refuse assent to the Bill and to return the same to the government for removal of the defects shown, as making a defective law is more dangerous to the society.

If thereby the Ordinance shall collapse, let it collapse.

Let the government amend itself and bring out a fresh Ordinance incorporating the demands of the Bhasha Andolan for punishment to whosoever contravenes the Official Language Act of Orissa.

Repeal of the amendment late Biju Patnaik had sabotaged the Act with by inserting Sec.3-A in the Act in 1963 should also be ensured in this course of this action, as continuance of English as official language in addition to Oriya is injurious to functionality of Oriya as the official language of Orissa.

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