Centre introducing chaos, taking away power of elected govts: HC
The Nainital high court on Tuesday again rapped the Centre. It said that by imposing President’s rule in Uttarakhand, the Centre was taking away the powers of an elected government and introducing “chaos” and that floor test “cannot be deprived of its sanctity”.
A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht, will resume the final hearing on pleas filed by ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Wednesday, despite it being a public holiday. If a government can be sacked on the grounds of corruption charges, then no government would be able to remain in power for its full term i.e. five years, it said. The Bench added that no government in the country was free from corruption.
The Division Bench maintained that irrespective of allegations of horse-trading and corruption, the only Constitutional way to test majority was to hold a floor test, which “you still have to go for”.
The Court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre, if failed money Bill or Speaker’s unconstitutional action was the prime reason for the use of Article 356. Rohatgi said, “The failed Appropriation Bill was a solid reason for the imposition of President’s rule in the state.”
The Centre also faced questions from the court, which observed that if the reasons for the imposition of Article 356 in the instant case, where ruling parties are different at the Centre and in the state, are accepted then it may lead to the Central government “watching with a magnifying glass where there is an opportunity for President’s rule”.
“It (President’s rule) has to be applied in exceptional cases only,” the Bench said, adding that the President could have waited for events to unfold on March 28 when a floor test was to take place.
Defending the Centre’s decision, Rohatgi said, “There was separate group of nine (rebel) MLAs and it was certain that they would have voted against the state government, if a division of votes was allowed in the Assembly. But the Speaker acted unconstitutionally by declining majority request in the assembly.”
By imposing President’s rule, “you (Centre) are taking away the power of an elected government. You are introducing chaos”, it said, adding that the Governor had not recommended imposing of Article 356.
The Bench went on to say that the Governor’s action of March 23 calling for a floor test “cannot be deprived of its sanctity”.
“After (the decision on) March 23 what has happened for the imposition of Article 356?” the court asked. It said that irrespective of allegations of horse-trading or a sting operation pointing towards corruption in the government, “the only Constitutional way to test majority was to hold the floor test. You still have to go for floor test”.
“The sting operation and conclusions derived from it are totally irrelevant. The Union Cabinet could not have known that the Speaker would on March 26 disqualify the nine MLAs.
“Even if it (Cabinet) did know, it was irrelevant for the Centre to take it (disqualification) into consideration. If it (Centre) does take it into consideration, then it would stand accused of being partisan and playing politics in the state,” the bench said.
The court also said that the government cannot say that the Chief Minister was trying to buy back his rebel MLAs while at the same time he was trying to get them disqualified.
“Both can’t go hand in hand,” it observed.
The court, however, observed that irrespective of whether a division of votes occurred on March 18, the composition of the state’s Assembly was bound to change as the nine rebel Congress MLAs had to “pay the price” of being ousted as per Constitutional provisions under the 10th schedule.