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HC’s tricky posers to Centre on U’khand President rule

The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday questioned the urgency in imposing President’s rule in the state toppling an elected government in the fifth year of its term. 

Hearing two pleas filed by ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule and Centre’s appropriation ordinance for Uttarakhand, a division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht questioned what the pressing circumstances necessitated Central rule 24 hours before the elected government was to prove majority on the floor of the House on March 28.

“What is passing through our mind is, is it the lookout of the Central government as to what would have happened on March 28 (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...,” a bench of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist 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” and added “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.

He 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 March 18. The court, however, said, “Governor should call the shots in a state. He is not an agent of the Centre. He is independent of politics. He had called for a floor test.” 

“Whether the government enjoyed confidence can be tested in a floor test. Even if nine MLAs were disqualified, horse-trading was going on. The proper thing to do would be to order a floor test and await the results. You (Centre) are supposed to keep hands off and have a neutral stand,” the court said.
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