HC snubs Centre, orders floor test
Giving a new twist to the political events in the Himalayan state, where President’s Rule was imposed on Sunday, the HC ordered a floor test on the petition moved by Congress challenging the dismissal of the Harish Rawat government under Article 356.
The High Court ordered the Director General of Police (DGP) to ensure security in the Assembly when the floor test was carried out. The Registrar of High Court would act as observer during the process.
Visibly elated at the High Court order ousted chief minister Harish Rawat told reporters in Dehradun that the High Court direction was ‘tremendous setback’ for the Centre and expressed confidence that it would deter the Narendra Modi government from “destabilizing” the Congress-ruled state governments. “Congress and our government have full respect for the judiciary. We still do not have the full judgement of the High Court but the part of the order available shows that the court holds the Centre’s decision wrong,” he told reporters.
A deeply embarrassed Centre may move a higher bench against the single bench order directing test of majority for ousted Harish Rawat government on the floor of the assembly. Reacting sharply to the single-bench order, sources close to Centre said that President’s Rule cannot be stayed by any court and the Centre would challenge the single-bench decision in a division bench of the High Court on Wednesday. The floor test is scheduled for Thursday.
On the possible move by Centre, Senior Supreme Court counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented Harish Rawat before the single bench, said, “Both the sides would consider their future legal recourse.” Singhvi told reporters that the court accepted Congress’ position that despite President’s Rule, there was enough scope for judicial review to allow a floor test. He said Governor KK Paul, too, had directed holding of the floor test on March 28 and Rawat had also made the same demand twice.
“Now only the date has changed from March 28 to March 31,” Singhvi said. He said mere allegations of horse-trading cannot justify the imposition of President’s Rule and stop a floor test. The Centre had imposed the President’s Rule just a day ahead of the date (March 28) fixed for the floor test.
The Uttarakhand High Court while scheduling the floor test for March 31said all MLAs, including the nine ruling Congress rebels, will participate in the trial of strength but the votes of the disqualified legislators will be kept separate. “They will be taken into account subject to final outcome of the writ filed petition by Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President’s Rule,” Singhvi, accompanied by another Supreme Court counsel Amit Sibal, son of former union minister Kapil Sibal, told reporters after the second day of the hearing in Nainital.
On the question of disqualification of 9 rebel Congress MLAs, Singhvi said the court did not set it aside and a final decision on it will come later. Singhvi said for purpose of counting, the votes of the disqualified MLAs will be kept separate and will be subjected to final outcome of the case. “The votes will not be taken as valid votes till then,” the Congress leader said.