The Uttarakhand high court on Tuesday asked the deposed Harish Rawat government to seek a trust vote on March 31, in an unusual order that added to the political flux in the state.
While the rebellion-hit Congress welcomed the verdict and its ousted chief minister, Rawat, expressed confidence that he has the numbers to prove majority, the BJP termed the decision “unprecedented”.
President’s Rule was imposed in the hill state on Sunday following days of political upheaval after nine dissident Congress lawmakers threatened to take power by joining hands with the BJP.
The Centre will challenge the high court’s decision. “On Wednesday, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi will go to the Nainital court to oppose the order on floor test. Never ever such a ruling has come on a President’s Rule,” parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu told HT.
Justice UC Dhyani ordered that a registrar of the high court will monitor the House proceedings as observer.
The decision came on a day the Supreme Court agreed to hear next week a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand and demanding a CBI probe into allegations of horse-trading.
The Speaker will submit the trust vote results in a sealed cover to the high court by Friday morning.
But there is no clarity on how the court ordered the floor test even as the 71-member assembly remains suspended.
“The high court has not stayed President’s Rule in the state,” additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told HT.
The Centre’s move to depose the Uttarakhand government last week, while citing a “constitutional breakdown”, sparked a political storm with the Congress and BJP accusing each other of “murdering democracy”.
Rawat, who became chief minister in 2014 after an intense intra-party power struggle, claims to have the support of 34 MLAs.
“The high court accepts the point that despite President’s Rule there is enough scope for judicial review to allow a floor test to take place. This was asked by us,” said Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, counsel for the ousted state government. “It (the floor test) is to record the votes. It will prove that there was no reason to impose it (President’s Rule).”
Justice Dhyani said the nine dissident Congress MLAs, disqualified by the Uttarakhand Speaker under anti-defection law, will have the right to vote. A petition by the rebels challenging their dismissal will be heard on Wednesday.
The court ordered that the trust vote will be held through secret ballot and the votes of the nine legislators will be kept separate.
Sources said a group of Uttarakhand BJP leaders left for Delhi late on Tuesday evening to discuss strategy with party chief Amit Shah following the verdict.
Three former chief ministers—BC Khanduri, BS Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal— are likely to attend the meeting.
The BJP, which has 28 MLAs in the state, is banking on the support of the dissident Congress lawmakers to defeat the confidence motion Rawat will move during the floor test.
(With inputs from Deep Joshi in Dehradun)