This article discusses the case of Dr. D.C. Wadhwa v. State of Bihar, in which the petitioner, Dr. D.C. Wadhwa, challenged the general power of the Governor to re-promulgate various ordinances in Bihar.
This topic of “Dr. D. C. Wadhwa and others v. State of Bihar and others (1986) – Examining the Constitutionality of Re-Promulgation” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.
Background of the Case
- The petitioner, Dr. D.C. Wadhwa, was a professor of economics in Pune who had extensively researched and published about the misuse of the ordinance making power of the governor of Bihar.
- Between 1967 and 1981, the government of Bihar had promulgated 256 ordinances, which were kept alive for periods ranging between one and fourteen years by mechanically re-promulgating the ordinances without changing any content of the ordinance or trying to turn it into an Act.
- The immediate challenge in the case was to the three ordinances that were kept alive for a period of 10-14 years. The main issue contested was whether the Governor could mechanically re-promulgate the ordinance for an indefinite period of time, and thus take over the power (from the legislature) to legislate through the powers conferred on him under Article 213.
- The respondents argued that the petitioners had no locus standi to maintain the writ petition since they were outsiders who had no legal interest to challenge the validity of re-promulgation of the ordinances.
- It was also argued that the two ordinances had already been enacted into an Act of Parliament and the third ordinance was sent as a proposal to be enacted into an Act, thus the question was merely academic in nature.
Issues before the Court
- Whether the Governor can mechanically re-promulgate the ordinance for an indefinite period of time, and thus take over the power (from the legislature) to legislate through the powers conferred on him under Article 213.
- Whether the petitioners had legal standing to challenge the validity of re-promulgation of the ordinances.
- The court ruled that the mechanical re-promulgation of the ordinances for a period of one to fourteen years without going to the legislation was a colourable exercise of power by the executive and ruled that re-promulgation of ordinances was unconstitutional.
- The court also provided two exceptions to this rule in which re-promulgation can be allowed: (1) if the legislature cannot take it up due to existing legislative business and (2) if the government feels that an emergent situation has emerged and re-promulgation is necessary to deal with it.
Implications of the Case
- The judgment in this case holds great constitutional law importance as it examines the executive’s power to legislate through the re-promulgation of ordinances.
- The court’s decision in this case highlights the importance of ensuring that laws are made in accordance with the Constitution and not by the executive.
- However, the judgment also has some faulty reasoning, such as not addressing the effects of failed ordinances and providing problematic exceptions.
- PIL: Public Interest Litigation
- Locus standi: legal standing or the right to bring a case or claim to court.
- Ordinance: a law or regulation issued by a government or other official body.
- Re-promulgation: the act of issuing or making public an ordinance again.
- Article 213: a provision in the Constitution that empowers the Governor to promulgate ordinances.
This article is part of the series “Landmark Judgements that Shaped India” under the Indian Polity Notes & Prelims Sureshots. We aim to make the articles comprehensive while leaving out unnecessary information from the UPSC perspective. If you think this article is useful, please provide your feedback in the comments section below.