Issuing an ordinance - the process

If the government decides to go ahead with the promulgation of an Ordinance (executive order) by the President of India making implementation of conditional access system (CAS) in Indian cable and satellite homes a policy decision, then a Cabinet nod has to be taken again.

Quizzed on the issue of an Ordinance, a senior official of the information & broadcasting ministry admitted to
"If the government decides to go ahead with the Ordinance without waiting for ratification from the Upper House of Parliament during the monsoon session of Parliament, beginning sometime in the third week of July, then it has to prove that the issue of CAS is of national importance."

However, the official also added that at present no decision has been taken on the issue as the I&B ministry "will wait for minister Sushma Swaraj to return from her trip to Cannes where she had gone heading a strong team from the world of Indian entertainment."

Still, here's a step-by-step guide of how an Ordinance on CAS can be promulgated if Swaraj is able to bulldoze her way through opposition.

Step 1: The I&B ministry prepares a three-four page cabinet note on CAS highlighting the salient features of the amendments to be brought about in the CATV Networks Regulation Act, 1995. The note will be circulated to the Cabinet secretariat and the ministry of law and justice.

"Opinion of ministry of law is crucial in this matter as it will indicate whether such a move is implementable," a government official said.

Step 2: After receiving the opinion from the law ministry, the I&B ministry will attempt to get the issue listed on the agenda of a full Cabinet meeting as soon as possible. The Cabinet note will also highlight the reason as to why the government should hurry through with this piece of legislation even before both the Houses of Parliament have discussed the issue.

"We'll have to justify to the Cabinet why CAS is of national importance and of immense benefit to consumers at large," the official said, adding that the Minister's persuasive powers will play a crucial role here.

Step 3: After the Cabinet is convinced that that an Ordinance relating to CAS needs to be promulgated, the issue will be referred to the President as it's under his name the piece of legislation will be issued.

Step 4: The President studies the matter and gives his opinion. He has two options: give his assent right away to the suggestion on the ordinance by the Cabinet or send it back for clarifications.

A senior government official explained: "The President generally does not refuse or turn down the Cabinet's suggestions. He can send the file back for more comments and clarifications after which he will have to promulgate the Ordinance."

Step 5: After the promulgation of the Ordinance, the particular legislation comes into effect from the date mentioned therein and is notified in the Gazette.

Step 6: The government, however, will have to have the Ordinance ratified in Parliament within six months of it being promulgated or it lapses. But if the government fails to get the nod of both Houses of Parliament due to pressure of more important work, it can have the Ordinance extended by another six months after which Parliament ratification is a must.

Explained the government official, "Since the Cable TV Networks Regulation Amendment Bill, 2002 has already been passed by Lok Sabha (Lower House), convincing the Cabinet and President on the importance of the amendments and CAS should not be difficult."

So, those who had been breathing a bit easily thinking CAS is still some months away don't pop the champagne yet. Swaraj is back in office on Monday (May 27) and may just decide to complete the unfinished CAS task.

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