Remember the Re1 note, or the last time you saw it?
It may well have gone out of print, but an ordinance promulgated to facilitate its birth in 1940 is still in force, despite the fact that the Constitution grants no more than six months of life to an ordinance.
Notably, the currency ordinance issued by the colonial British government to print the Re1 note is going to survive, as it did two bids earlier when a finance ministry panel in 1997 and then the law commission in 1998 recommended its repeal on the ground that the note is no longer printed.
The parliamentary standing committee on finance stumbled upon the currency ordinance, 1940, recently while examining the coinage bill, 2009, aimed at replacing four existing laws on metal coins and tokens.
Flummoxed by its queer longevity, the committee headed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha asked the ministry if the ordinance promulgated in 1940 was ever enacted as a law.
“No. The currency ordinance, 1940, was promulgated after passing of the India and Burma (Emergency provisions) Act, 1940, which provided that ordinances made during the period of the Emergency beginning June 27, 1940, (imposed to meet the exigencies of World War II) would not lapse within six months,” the ministry told the lawmakers’ panel.
“This made the currency ordinance, 1940 of permanent nature,” it said, adding that after Independence, the Indian government adopted it thorough a presidential order in 1950 to adopt various British laws.
An ordinance is a special piece of legislation made by the executive to meet an emergency when Parliament is not in session. But Article 123 of the Constitution stipulates that the ordinance will lapse unless it is ratified and made into a full-fledged law by Parliament within six months of its promulgation.
Asked by the panel as to why the ministry was not repealing it when it has stopped printing Re1 note, the ministry replied: “The 1940 ordinance may not be repealed as yet as one rupee notes continue to be in circulation though not being printed any more.”
The coinage bill, 2009, seeks to amalgamate four laws — Metal Tokens Act, 1889, Coinage Act, 1906, Bronze Coin (Legal Tender) Act, 1918, and the Small Coins (Offences) Act, 1971, into one comprehensive act.
So Coinage Act 2011 Section 28 says:
28. Continuance of existing coins
Notwithstanding the repeal of the enactments and the Ordinance specified in sub-section (1) of section 27,–
(a) all coins issued under the said enactments; and
(b) Government of India one rupee note issued under the Currency Ordinance, 1940 (Ord. IV of 1940), which are legal tender immediately before the commencement of the Coinage Act, 2011 shall be deemed to be the coin and continue to be legal tender in payment or on account under the corresponding provisions of this Act.
All this is so so fascinating.
History, law, currency, wars…there is a bit of everything in this. It is a pity we have not paid any attention to currency denominations in studying monetary economics. With the war on cash, much of this will be lost as well.