The Supreme Court is right, the best way to determine who is the chief minister of a state is by having a floor test. But the question is, how often should the decision of a governor, as to who is invited to form a government, go under review especially when there are mechanisms already in place to check if the decision was a correct one.
All eyes are on Panjim right now where the Goa Legislative Assembly is scheduled to have a floor test on Thursday to see if Manohar Parrikar, recently appointed as the state's chief minister, can survive a vote of confidence in the House. The state election didn't result in any party getting a clear majority. The Congress emerged as the single largest party with a total of 17 seats, just three seats short of the halfway mark in the state's 40-member Assembly. It was followed by the BJP with 13 seats.
However, the BJP , which is also the ruling party at the Centre, claims that it has managed to form an alliance of MLAs including the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party with its three seats, three members of the Goa Forward Party and two Independent members giving it a total number of 21 seats. With this number, the BJP legislative party approached the governor and claimed the right to form the government.
The governor of a state has a unique constitutional role in our system of Westminster-style democracy. The role is similar to the president at the Centre. While they play no formal role in the day to day administration of a state, when it comes to the appointment of a government, their role suddenly becomes one of absolute importance, as this is where they exercise their discretion. The role of the governor at the end of the day is to ensure that there is a stable government that can pass a budget and ensure supply as without passing a budget the government will stop and only the legislature can raise money. For this the governor must be satisfied that the chief minister can command a majority in the House to see through bills.
So this does not become a point of who is legally authorised to hold office or not, when adjudicating these matters there are many factors at play, the cold hard letter of the law, the changing tides of democracy and the practicality of having to form of a government. So when courts get involved, the results that come out often times don't always stick to precedent like clockwork.
Such as the one the Supreme Court disposed off on Tuesday, with a direction that a trust vote be held on the floor of the House on Thursday. The principle question in dispute according to the order was if the BJP's legislative party had sufficient numbers. The governor's decision could have been reviewed for appropriateness as to who should have been called first to form a government or what is the correct procedure. But the Supreme Court nipped the dispute in the bud by ordering a quick floor test. If Parrikar wins, the governor stands vindicated, if he fails then the Congress is invited to form the government. Even so, if halfway through his term, Parrikar loses the support of his coalition, the Congress may move a motion of no-confidence and take over the reigns of the government. After all they only need to sway three MLAs on their camp to get to the magic number of 21 and the BJP has to hold on to at least seven.
So while, there may be many legal disputes as to how best a governor should act, sometimes effective and quick rulings are better for a democracy than cold hard letters of the law. The law states that the chief minister is a member of the house, who is appointed by the governor and holds the confidence of the House. Whoever meets that criterion can be the chief minister. Be it Parrikar or Kavlekar or anyone really. The best way to handle it is to do what the SC just did, grind our teeth and get on with it.
Updated Date: Mar 16, 2017 10:39 AM