HC puts floor test on hold, Centre gets breather
The order came after the Centre rushed a battery of senior legal officers to Nainital to contest the single-judge bench order issued on Wednesday, which had directed for the floor test to examine the claim of majority of dismissed Harish Rawat government.
The Centre and nine rebel Congress MLAs on Thursday moved the High Court challenging an interim order by a single bench directing the floor test in the Assembly, days after President’s Rule was imposed in the state. A petition was made before a division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
Appearing on behalf of the Centre, Rohatgi argued that Tuesday’s court order directing a floor test amounted to suspending a Presidential proclamation. He said, no purpose would be served by a floor test as there was no government in place. On hearing Rohatgi, the High Court stayed the floor test in the assembly saying several legal issues needed to be considered. The court would now hear the matter on April 6.
The rebel Congress MLAs had moved the High Court challenging their disqualification by Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal. The petition sought clarity on whether the floor test can be held in the state Assembly after the promulgation of President’s rule when the House is in suspended animation.
For the Centre, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and additional solicitors general Tushar Mehta and Maninder Singh argued that the single Judge bench had rightly inferred that the HC could not stay President’s Rule and yet incongruously ordered floor test. The single-judge bench had accepted Congress’ position that despite President’s Rule, there was enough scope for judicial review to allow a floor test. The division bench, on the other hand, accepted Centre’s plea that it was impermissible to revive assembly for a floor test when President’s Rule is in force. The High Court asked the Congress to file before a reply by April 5 as it would commence the final hearing on the validity of Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule on April 6.
Congress through senior Supreme Court counsel AM Singhvi too agreed on deferment of the floor test. The bench asked the central government to reply by April 4 and ousted CM Harish Rawat before April 5. The rebel MLAs have been asked to file their reply by April 1. The rebels were represented by advocate Dinesh Dwivedi.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that Budget session of parliament was prorogued to enable expenditure for the centrally ruled Uttarakhand from the Consolidated Fund of India. Naidu said, the decision (to impose President’s Rule) was taken as the state government was not able to pass the Appropriation Bill. The Centre would now issue an ordinance to facilitate payments from the Consolidated Fund of India.