No sooner did president Pranab Mukherjee sign the ordinance on sexual crimes against women than it hit a rough patch. Additional solicitor general Indira Jaisingh has questioned the legality of the move. Constitutionally, no ordinance can be cleared once a notification to convene Parliament has been issued.
The budget session of Parliament will begin on February 21.
“Why was such a hurry shown by the president in signing the ordinance since this is not allowed under law once the government announces the dates for a Parliament session?” asks Jaisingh.
Pointing out that “it is already in the public domain” that the railway budget will be presented on February 26 and the general budget two days later, she contends that the central government could have waited till the budget session is convened to ensure that the amendments to the sexual assault law are passed by Parliament.
Advocate Amit Desai, who is an expert on constitutional law, agrees. “The law says an ordinance can be passed between two sessions of Parliament in case of an emergency. Here, one fails to see any emergency that couldn’t wait for a few more days.”
Activist Meena Seshu from the National Network of Sex Workers feels that the haste with which the ordinance was promulgated suggests that it is a mere populist move. She argues that given the complex nature of the subject, the government could have put the time it has till the budget session to work out a more nuanced and equitable approach to law-making. “In its hurry, the government has ended up doing a knee-jerk job.”