Centre's call for President's Rule cuts at root of democracy: Uttarakhand HC

Nainital: The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday observed that the state governor should have "stayed his hands" while dealing with the Speaker over proceedings in the Assembly saying he (Speaker) is also a Constitutional authority and "any intrusion" into his freedom should be guarded.

Making these observations at the end of a day-long hearing, the division bench of the court said that this case was going to be an example where boundaries between Constitutional authorities like President and governor were drawn to ensure that powers "are not trampled upon by one or the other authority."

The bench, comprising Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist, observed that "ideally he (governor) should have stayed his hands" while referring to the communication sent by the governor to the speaker regarding the MLAs memo for demand of division of votes.

Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat. PTI

Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat. PTI

"This amounts to giving an order over the phone. Any intrusion into freedom of Speaker has to be guarded. Speaker is also a Constitutional authority. Here some boundaries have been crossed," it said.

The court was hearing a plea for ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President's Rule on 26 March and related pleas.

It was commenting on the issue arising out of a letter of 35 MLAs, including nine rebel Congress MLAs, who had written to the governor seeking a direction to the Speaker to allow their demand for a division of votes on the passage of the Appropriation Bill on 18 March and a communication from the governor's secretariat on the subject.

The court also asked the Centre whether it was not "totally extraneous" for the Union Government to be concerned over the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs and to "interfere" in the affairs of the state which has to be done only in "extraordinary instances".

"What is passing through our mind is, is it the lookout of the Central government as to what would have happened on 28 March (when floor test was to be held) in view of the changed composition and in view of the nine ousted MLAs..?

"Will it not be totally extraneous for Central government, which is ruled by another political party, to be concerned by changed composition...," the bench asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

The bench said it (the demand for division of votes in the Assembly when appropriation Bill was introduced) was only a "solitary instance".

"This is what is colouring our minds. Can one solitary instance topple a democratically-elected government in its fourth-fifth year... root of the matter is you are cutting at root of democracy".

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended that the speaker's decision to not allow 35 MLAs to vote on their demand for division, when the money bill was introduced, amounted to "destroying democracy" as the 35 constituted the majority view.

The AG alleged that former Chief Minister Harish Rawat and the Speaker were "in cahoots" and "scuttled the demand for division".

He claimed that since no vote was held, the money bill had failed and this amounted to the state government having fallen on 18 March.

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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2016 11:42:45 IST

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