In 2020-21, Kerala assembly met for 2 months but state promulgated highest number of ordinances

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New Delhi: Kerala passed an overwhelming number of ordinances in 2020-21 period despite the state assembly meeting for the highest number of days in India, shows the PRS Legislative Research’s Annual Review of State Laws 2021 report.

Kerala assembly convened for 61 days, followed by Odisha (43) and Karnataka (40) during the period. Yet, Kerala passed 144 ordinances while Andhra Pradesh, the second in the list, passed only 20 ordinances.

"The Supreme Court has held that the Ordinance route for law making should be used only under exceptional circumstances, and should not substitute the law-making powers of the Legislature," reminds the report.

As many as 17 states met for less than 20 days during 2020-21 period and of these, five met for less than ten days. Uttar Pradesh assembly convened for 17 days while West Bengal met for 19 days and Maharashtra for 15 days.

It may be recalled that the period witnessed Covid-19 lockdowns. Besides, it was an assembly election year in Kerala. Yet, the state assembly functioned for the highest ever number of days in the last 15 years. Since 1997, the Kerala assembly has met for an average of 49 days a year.

In 2021, state assemblies passed more than 500 bills with an average of 21 bills per state. The highest number of bills were passed by Karnataka (48). Kerala passed 36 bills during this period. Kerala assembly had convened a 21-day special session during October-November in 2021 only to pass bills. During that session, 34 bills were passed. Most of them were already implemented as ordinance.

In Kerala, 94% of the bills were passed after at least five days of their introduction in the legislature, notes the report. Only five states took more than five days to pass the 50 per cent of the bills introduced during this period. Eight states, including Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab, and Bihar, passed all the bils on the same day of introduction.

On scrutiny of the bills by the subject committees, report notes that "committees are often exception rather than norm, and bills are rarely examined by committees."

In 2021, though 40 bills across states were sent to committees for detailed examination, it does not include Appropriation Bills. However, Kerala referred two Finance Bills to committees.

Kerala sends bills regularly to its 14 subject committees, notes the report. However, unlike Parliament committees, the subject committees of Kerala are headed by the respective state ministers, "which weakens the mechanism for independent scrutiny by the legislature," notes the report.

While 75 per cent of the bills of all states received the assent of the Governor within a month, Jharkhand (80 days on average) and Tripura (63 days) showed a delay.

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