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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : An ordinance, its constitutionality, and scrutiny



Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Anti-defection law, Article 123, Article 74, Article 368, Tenth schedule, Article 239AA, powers of speaker etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: State legislature- functioning, role and conduct of business, role of judiciary in checks and balances etc



  • The President of India exercised legislative power under Article 123 of the Constitution to promulgate The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 (Ordinance).




Article 239AA:

Article 123:

  • It grants the President certain law-making powers to promulgate ordinances during the recess of Parliament.
  • These ordinances have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament but are in the nature of temporary laws.
  • Governors of a state can issue ordinances under Article 213 of the Constitution, when the state legislative assembly (or either of the two Houses in states with bicameral legislatures) is not in session.
  • The ordinance making power is the most important legislative power of the President and the Governor.
    • It has been vested in them to deal with unforeseen or urgent situations.


Issues with the ordinance:

  • The ordinance negates a Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court that brought “services” under the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD).


Court’s ruling under Article 239AA(3)(a):

  • The Legislative Assembly of the NCTD has competence over entries in List II and List III, except for expressly excluded entries of List II (entries 1, 2, 18 are excluded)
  • The executive power of NCTD is co-extensive with its legislative power, that is, it shall extend to all matters with respect to which it has power to legislate
  • The Union of India has executive power only over three entries in List II over which the NCTD does not have legislative competence (entries 1, 2, 18).
  • The Court interpreted that out of the 66 entries in List II (the State list).
    • The executive power of the Government of NCTD covers 63 entries, that of the Union of India is restricted to the remaining three:
    • Public order (entry 1)
    • Police (entry 2)
    • Land (entry 18).
  • The executive power over “services” (entry 41) can be exercised exclusively by the Government of the NCTD.


Legislative response of Government:

  • The interpretation was negated by the Union of India, acting through its Council of Ministers under Article 74.
    • By triggering extraordinary legislative power of the President under Article 123 in the promulgation of an ordinance.
  • The ordinance inserted entry 41 of List II (State list) into Article 239AA(3)(a), thereby expanding the scope of excepted matter from three (1, 2, 18) to four (1, 2, 18, 41).


Issue with the ordinance:

  • The power conferred on Parliament under Article 239AA(3)(b) is to make fresh laws — not to amend Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution.
  • The power conferred on Parliament under Article 239AA(7)(a) is to make laws for giving effect to or supplementing the provisions contained in various clauses of Article 239AA and for all matters incidental or consequential thereto.
  • Such a power cannot be pressed into action to amend Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution.
  • Article 239AA(7)(b) stipulates that Parliament’s law making under Article 239AA(7)(a) shall not be deemed to be an amendment of the Constitution for the purposes of Article 368.
    • No such clause has been stipulated in Article 239AA(3)(a).
    • Altering the scope of Article 239AA(3)(a) requires constitutional amendment under Article 368.
  • The ordinance promulgated under Article 123 of the Constitution to expand the scope of excepted matters in Article 239AA(3)(a) is void ab initio and is liable to be struck down for bypassing constitutional amendment.
  • Article 123 is no substitute for Article 368 (amendment of the Constitution) in Part XX.
  • When a Constitution Bench (five judges) of the Supreme Court declares/interprets the law (Article 239AA(3)(a)), the same is binding on all courts and authorities in India in terms of Articles 141 and 144, respectively.
  • Articles 123, 141, 144 are in Part V (The Union) of the Constitution: None has a non-obstante clause.
  • The aid and advice of the Union Council of Ministers to the President under Article 74 could not have overridden Article 144.


Way Forward

  • The Union of India’s decision to prefer review (Article 137) and promulgate an ordinance (Article 123) simultaneously is ill-conceived.
    • If the ordinance is challenged, the Union of India is unlikely to succeed through either route to wrest power of “services” in Delhi.
  • Krishna Kumar Singh vs State of Bihar (2017): The Court held that the satisfaction of the President under Article 123 is not immune from judicial scrutiny.
    • The powers under Article 123 are not a parallel source of law making or an independent legislative authority.
    • Court is empowered to look into the relevance of material placed before the President, but not its sufficiency or adequacy.
  • The ordinance is likely to be struck down since it expands excepted matters in Article 239AA(3)(a).
    • Parliament alone can do this under Article 368.



Discuss the procedures to decide the disputes arising out of the election of a Member of the Parliament or State Legislature under The Representation of the People Act, 1951. What are the grounds on which the election of any returned candidate may be declared void ? What remedy is available to the aggrieved party against the decision? Refer to the case laws.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)