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Even President can go wrong, says U’khand HC

Earlier in the day, the court observed that the legitimacy of the President’s decision to suspend the Assembly is subject to judicial review as even he can go wrong.

“We hope they will not provoke us,” a bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist said after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi raised the apprehension that President’s Rule might be revoked before verdict is pronounced or even reserved.

Singhvi, who appeared for former Chief Minister Harish Rawat in his plea challenging President’s Rule, expressed the fear after the Centre said that the Attorney General’s statement of April 7, that nothing with regard to 356 will be done till April 17, has “expired”.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta did not confirm whether any decision with regard to revocation of President’s Rule has been taken by the Centre.

Singhvi said President Rule should not be lifted before judgement is reserved or pronounced and the “opposition” should not be invited to form a government as this would render the plea infructuous.

The bench is also likely to reserve its verdict on Rawat’s plea against President’s Rule today.

During the second half of the day’s proceedings, the court also directed a query to the petitioner, Rawat, that looking at his conduct “why the discretion (of Article 356) should not be exercised”.

“Looking at your (petitioner) conduct, why discretion (of imposing 356) should not be exercised?” 

The court was referring to the sting operation which allegedly pointed to Rawat’s involvement in horse-trading.

To this Rawat’s counsel, Singhvi, said that the sting was an “alleged solitary example” which “bordered on entrapment”.

Referring to the NDA government’s argument that the President took the decision to impose Article 356 of the Constitution in his “political wisdom”, a bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist observed, “People can go wrong, be it the President or the judges.” 

The court also went on to say that “Legitimacy of inference drawn by President from the material placed before him is open to judicial review.” 

This observation was made after the Centre contended that the President’s understanding of the material before him would be different from that of the court.

The Government’s contention came after the bench said that from the reports sent by the Governor to the President, regarding the situation in the state, “what we have understood is that everything was processing towards a floor test on March 28.” 

The high court, during the hearing, also noted that the Governor in his reports to the President never mentioned that 35 MLAs sought division of votes.

“Governor has to be personally satisfied. He has not recorded his personal satisfaction that 35 MLAs had sought division on the floor of the house,” the court said and added that his reports do not say that the nine rebel Congress MLAs had also sought a division.

It also said that there was “absolute absence of material that would create an apprehension in the mind of the Governor” that President’s rule needs to be imposed.

“So how did Government of India arrive at the satisfaction that 35 stood up? From Governor’s reports?” the court asked.

“Governor’s letter of March 19 to the President does not mention that 35 MLAs had sought division of votes. That is conspicuous by its absence. It is absolutely crucial,” the bench said.

To this the Centre said that on March 19 the Governor did not have all the details.During the arguments, the court asked Singhvi what would happen to the Centre’s March 30 ordinance regarding expenditure of the state if Rawat’s plea is allowed.

Singhvi said the ordinance would remain in force till the petition challenging it is decided.

He also said that even if the ordinance is struck down by the court the actions taken under it will remain.
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