A decision on a petition challenging the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand is expected on Wednesday.
The Uttarakhand high court is hearing deposed chief minister Harish Rawat’s petition challenging President’s Rule that was imposed on March 27, a day before Rawat was asked to prove his majority in an assembly floor test.
In the last two days, a division bench, comprising Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht, heard arguments of attorney general Mukul Rohtagi and Harish Salve, who are representing the Centre, and counsels of Rawat.
The court’s verdict could shape the political future of Uttarakhand which has been in a deadlock since nine rebel MLAs from the ruling Congress helped pass an appropriation bill on March 18. The rebels, backed by the BJP, were demanding a voice vote that was denied by the Speaker who ruled the bill as passed. The BJP and rebel legislators denied the claim.
As conflict continued, the governor asked Rawat to prove majority on the floor of the assembly on March 28 but days before the vote, a sting operation surfaced that purportedly showed the chief minister offering money to the rebel MLAs. Within hours, the speaker disqualified the MLAs under the anti-defection law.
Citing constitutional breakdown, the Centre moved to impose the President’s rule, deposing Rawat, who challenged the imposition.
A single bench of Justice UC Dhyani asked Rawat to seek a trust vote on the floor of the House on March 31. However, the centre approached the division bench, leading to the decision being stayed. The case has been dragging in court ever since, leaving Uttarakhand in a state of political uncertainty.
Attorney general Rohtagi argued that it will be unfair to give another chance to Rawat to prove majority in a floor test. However, the court on Tuesday commented, “There have been instances of thick-skinned governments in India lingering on. Besides the option of President’s rule, is the floor test not the best option to check whether they enjoy majority or not.”
The Rawat-led ruling Congress remained optimistic, with state president Kishor Upadhyay saying the party had full faith in the judicial system. “We are hopeful that truth will prevail,” he said.
The Congress is currently left with 27 MLAs of its own and is supported by the six-member Progressive Democratic Front, taking its number to 33 in the assembly. The BJP, on the other hand, has 27 MLAs of its own besides the nine rebel Congress legislators.
If the Uttarakhand high court revokes their suspension, the BJP will have a definite edge over Congress in an event of a floor test as its number will rise to 36, the majority mark in the 70-member House.