Uttarakhand crisis continues: AG unclear about Centre's stand, next hearing on 6 May

The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted the plea of the Centre that two more days be given to it to respond to its suggestion about the feasibility of holding a floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly under its supervision.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and and Shiva Kirti Singh, posted the matter for hearing on Friday after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said he has conveyed in right earnest the court's suggestion which is under serious consideration by the government.

The bench recorded the submission of Attorney General that "Union of India is seriously considering the suggestion given by this court to have a floor test in Assembly to put an end to the controversy that has emerged in this case".

The bench also noted the submission of sacked Chief Minister Harish Rawat's counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi that they have no objection if Government accepts the suggestion.

The bench noted that if Government accepts the suggestion, it would subserve the cause of democracy.

While posting the matter for hearing on 6 May, the bench said if the AG does not obtain instructions on the suggestion, the matter will be taken for hearing and there is also a possibility that the matter will travel to Constitution bench for full fledged debate.

The bench was of the view that in most of the cases of imposition of President's rule, the matter has gone to the Constitution bench by framing some vital questions.

However, Sibal and Singhvi raised objection to recording of such order and said that here it is a case of floor test which is like a vote of confidence for Rawat and it cannot be in any way called vote of no confidence.

However, the submission of Congress was objected to by Rohatgi who said Rawat cannot seek confidence vote by projecting himself as Chief Minister as the President's Rule is in operation by virtue of the apex court's order.

AG said the situation in Uttarakhand is like where both the parties will face the floor test to prove their majority.

Singhvi said the floor test cannot be for the party which was not in power and the person who has to be called to prove the majority is one who was the chief minister.

Amidst the deliberation, the bench said, "we will not restore the status quo ante by asking Rawat to prove majority".

The Supreme Court on Tuesday had asked the Attorney General to take instruction and apprise it about the feasibility of holding a floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly under its supervision.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, which had fixed the hearing on the plea at 2 pm on Tuesday, took up the matter at 10.30 am to apprise the parties concerned that it may not take up the case on Tuesday as Justice Singh would be a part of another bench hearing matters related to medical entrance exams at 2 pm.

During the brief hearing, the bench repeated its suggestion that the Centre should consider holding a floor test in the Assembly under its supervision to ascertain the actual situation.

It asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to take instruction on the issue and apprise it about the same on Thursday.

The apex court had on 22 April stayed till 27 April the judgement of the Uttarakhand High Court quashing imposition of President's rule, giving a new turn to the political drama in the state by restoring central rule there.

On 27 April, it had extended the stay till further orders and had also framed seven questions while giving the liberty to the AG to include other questions the government would like to be addressed.

"Whether the Governor could have sent the message in the present manner under Article 175 (2) for conducting floor test," the bench had said in its first question.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

It had further asked whether the disqualification of MLAs by the Speaker is a "relevant issue" for the purposes of invoking President's rule under Article 356 of the Constitution.

Referring to constitutional scheme that the Assembly proceedings are beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny, the apex court had also asked whether the proceedings of the House can be considered for invoking President's rule.

Dealing with the claim and counter claim with regard to the fate of the Appropriation Bill in the Uttarakhand Assembly, it had said that the next question is as to when the President's role comes into the picture.

"Can the delay in the floor test be a ground for proclamation of the President's rule," it had also asked.

The political crisis in Uttarakhand emerged after nine rebel MLAs from Congress defected to BJP during a debate over the state budget in March. They were later disqualified.

Following the disqualification, Governor KK Paul asked deposed Chief Minister Rawat to prove his majority in the assembly.

In a stunning verdict on 21 April, the Uttarakhand High Court quashed the President's rule imposed by the Centre which restored the dismissed Congress government and castigated the Centre for uprooting a democratically-elected government.

The Supreme Court delivered a major blow to the former Congress government on 23 April by staying the Uttarakhand High Court's verdict setting aside President's Rule in the state.

The verdict effectively re-imposed President's Rule in the state. On 27 March, the BJP-led government at the Centre had imposed President's Rule in Uttarakhand, leading the Congress, which was in power, to term it as a 'murder of democracy.' The judgment gave a new turn to the continuing political drama in the state.

Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, along with senior advocate Harish Salve, had pressed for the stay of the High Court judgment. He said how one party can be put at advantage and assume the office of Chief Minister when the other party is pushed to disadvantage in the absence of the judgment.

Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rawat and the Assembly Speaker, argued hard against the passing of any interim order saying "you are allowing the appeal by giving the stay". Sibal was of the view that allowing stay of operation of the High Court verdict would be like enforcing the proclamation of the President rule.

During the jam-packed hearing, the bench sought to pacify both the parties saying that it has to take a balanced view as this is a Constitutional court. "We will take on record the copy of the judgement and go through it. This matter may go to Constitution bench," the bench said.

The apex court had clarified on 23 April that it was keeping in abeyance the judgment of the High Court till the next date of hearing as a measure of balance for both the parties as the copy of the verdict was not made available to the parties.

Updated Date: May 04, 2016 12:23 PM

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