Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What is IMC Ordinance, its Passage by Lok Sabha and Validity

The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which seeks constitution of a Board of Governors that will exercise the powers of the Medical Council of India (MCI) was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday. 

The Bill was introduced on December 14 in the Lok Sabha by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, which was earlier brought in as an ordinance on September 26 this year when the Parliament was not in session. Under the new amendment, the Bill provides for the supersession of the MCI for a period of one year. 

Running the government has now become a new way of ‘ ruling the country via ordinance”. UPA government did the same thing by ruling the MCI through a series of ordinances till they lasted. Once BJP came to power, they again tried bringing NMC (with total administrative control) as an alternative to MCI. They have failed miserably till today and have not been able to pass it in the parliament. So, they decided to go the UPA way by bringing an ordinance on 26th September, 2018.

Once this is done they are not interested whether NMC Bill gets passed or not. As they have opened the doors of ordinances and its promulgation to do what they want to do. Whoso ever comes back to power they will use the same gateway to run the MCI.

Let’s talk about loopholes in the legal system

An ordinance is an executive order issued by the President of India that holds the same force and effect as an Act passed by the Parliament. The President has the power to issue ordinances under Article 123 of the Constitution. It is the Union cabinet that forwards proposals for issuing ordinances to the President who merely gives his assent.

An ordinance is normally issued only when both Houses of Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, are not in session. It is meant as a last resort and not a tool to replace the power or functioning of Parliament. Also, ordinances should, generally, be issued only on pressing issues or issues that require immediate consideration but cannot wait for Parliament to assemble and consider the bill.

What was the urgency in this case? NMC bill was already in the Parliament. They could have extended the tenure of the present MCI.

But we all know most ordinances are issued by the government for lack of consensus in Parliament like in the present MCI issue when NMC bill was already in the parliament. If there is a possibility of a bill not being passed in the current session of Parliament, government may choose to take the ordinance route pending its approval by the Parliament during a later session.

An ordinance, once issued, is valid for six weeks from the date of ordinance when the next session of Parliament starts. During this period, Parliament can either pass the ordinance turning it into an Act or disapprove the ordinance. If the ordinance is not passed by Parliament, it can be re-promulgated or re-issued by the President (meaning government).

Lok Sabha has passed in the present case. Now the bill will go to Rajya Sabha and if gets passed, then BoG ruling for one year becomes an act. But if it is not passed in Rajya Sabha it will be re-promulgated or re-issued by the President (meaning government).

There is no limit on how many times an ordinance can be re-issued but as per ruling of the Supreme Court, it cannot be re-promulgated endlessly without getting it to vote in the Parliament or Legislature. President has the power to withdraw the ordinance any time.

An ordinance is only a temporary executive measure. It should not replace the power and function of Parliamentary process and has to be introduced as a bill in the Parliament for its consideration.

Once both houses of Parliament pass the bill, it turns into an Act. This is how a bill that was previously an ordinance becomes an Act of Parliament. However, if one house passes the bill while other disapproves it or sits on it without voting on the bill, a joint session of the Parliament can be called to vote on the bill (this is another alternative with the government but we doubt will happen).

But taking the ordinance route is not on merit as it implies dysfunctional polity where law makers are not able to arrive at a consensus on important national issues.

Personally I feel they will be able to get it passed even in Rajya Sabha because UPA did not have any problem when they were in power. 

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania   (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Immediate Past National President IMA

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