Earlier this month, the Cabinet Secretariat wrote to all Union ministries and departments to complain that they do not share draft cabinet notes, which makes it difficult to detect “deficiencies” and “inconsistences”. A day later, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued a gazette notification to correct 52 errors in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, which Parliament had passed in the first week of August. This was just one of several instances of poor drafting of Cabinet notes and bills in the recent past.
On September 11, the Cabinet Secretariat wrote to all ministries and departments to read up paragraph 55 of the “Handbook of Writing Cabinet Notes”. It states that “a copy of the draft note should necessarily be forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as well as Cabinet Secretariat at the time when notes are sent for inter-ministerial consultations and their comments awaited for two weeks”. It states that comments, if any, received from the PMO or Cabinet Secretariat “should be duly taken into account while finalising the note”.
The Cabinet Secretariat letter said that there “have been some instances where the draft cabinet notes have not been shared with cabinet secretariat while circulating them for inter-ministerial consultations.” It said, “This makes it difficult for this office to detect procedural deficiencies, and inconsistencies in the proposal, as well as to monitor the time frame stipulated for inter-ministerial consultations”. It asked ministries and departments to “strictly adhere” to the instructions in the handbook.
On September 12, the Law and Justice Ministry issued a corrigendum to correct 52 errors in the J&K Reorganisation Act. Some of the mistakes were misspelt words, for example ‘notwithstanding’ spelt ‘nowwithstanding’ and ‘shariat’ as ‘shariet’. In the one that Parliament had passed, “Institutions Act, 2004” became “Institutes Act, 2005”, “1909” became “1951” and “the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988” became “the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988”.
Apart from the Cabinet Secretariat, the legislative department of the Law and Justice Ministry does vetting of ordinances, draft legislations and rules after the pre-legislative consultation as well as inter-ministerial consultations are over.
Other instances of corrections issued include the one on Thursday when the Law and Justice Ministry issued a corrigendum to correct typographical errors in the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, which the Centre issued on September 20. On February 21, the Centre issued an ordinance on banning of unregulated deposit schemes, and corrections, although for minor mistakes, had to be issued on February 28.
At times, minor corrections are made when one House of Parliament suggests these, while the other has already passed the Bill. On August 13, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued a corrigendum for a couple of corrections in the National Medical Commission Act of 2019. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on July 29 and the Rajya Sabha, with minor amendments, on August 1. The health minister on the floor of the House requested members to not push for a vote on amendments, and promised to include their suggestions at the time of framing of rules.
In February 2018, the law and justice ministry issued corrections for the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Act, 2017, and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Act, 2017. It also issued a corrigendum, although for a minor mistake, for the Finance Act, 2018 in April of that year.
In April 2018, the law ministry had to notify corrections in the Daman and Diu Municipalities (Amendment) Regulation Act since “misbehaviour” in the text of the Act was spelt “misbehavior”. In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Municipal) Amendment Regulation, 2018, “inquiry” was corrected to “inquire”.
Corrections can have to be carried out years after the original law is passed. In May this year, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued a corrigendum for an amendment relating to cooperatives law that Parliament passed in 2011. In the text of the law, it had to issue a correction that “a stalement” should be read as “a stalemate”.