Government avoids ordinance route to pass ant-graft bills

Contrary to expectations, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government on Friday chose not to take the ordinance route to promulgate five bills – particularly two aimed against corruption, which being pushed by Congress vice president and heir apparent Rahul Gandhi.

The bills could not be passed in the recently concluded winter session – the last of the 15th Lok Sabha before general elections – due to frequent disruptions, and the government was expected to clear them through ordinances. However, it avoided taking this route after several cabinet members as well as the government's legal department advised that it could be challenged in courts, and President Pranab Mukherjee may even refuse to pass the ordinances.

The bills in question include the Prevention of Corruption (amendment) Bill, Right of Citizens for Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of Grievances Bill, the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) amendment Bill, Rights of Persons with Disability Bill, and the Delhi HC Act (amendment) Bill.

Reports say that as soon as the cabinet convened for its weekly meeting with a packed agenda, cabinet secretary Ajit Seth announced that items relating to the ordinances stand "postponed" – but the cabinet has not abandoned the move, and is likely to try again after consulting the President and legal authorities.

Rahul Gandhi and the Congress obviously hope the bills will help establish the party's anti-corruption credentials; but at this late date it is a tall order and probably not enough to change public perception, which sees the goernment steeped in corruption.