The Uttarakhand HC brushed aside the Centre’s argument on Tuesday that the hill state was brought under President’s rule because of corruption, saying no government in India will survive five years if that is the case.
The division bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht turned to English poet-playwright John Lyly’s “all is fair in love and war” to respond to another argument that giving deposed chief minister Harish Rawat a chance now to prove his majority would be unfair. “In the past five years, every government has been sharing blames for corruption ... Can the central government invoke Article 356 against all the governments” in the country, the court wondered, hearing counter-arguments against Rawat’s petition challenging central rule in the state.
The judges asked the Centre’s counsels if the government was taking sides. “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 court said.
The state was brought under central rule on March 27, a day before Rawat was to take a floor test to prove his majority as nine dissident MLAs sided with the BJP to protest against the finance bill. The speaker later disqualified the rebels under the anti-defection law.
The court questioned the grounds on which Article 356 was imposed and sought to know the urgency since the Congress government was to prove its majority barely 24 hours later. “What was the collateral purpose and emergency to invoke Article 356?” the Chief Justice asked the governor’s counsel Harish Salve.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre, said the “real floor test” was conducted on March 18 when 35 MLAs, including the nine Congress rebels, asked for division of votes over the money bill. The assembly speaker dismissed the demand and kept afloat a minority government, he argued.
But the judges were not convinced. “How can you be sure that the nine MLAs in question would have voted for the BJP?”
Wednesday, despite being a holiday, will be a crucial day in the proceedings as the court might reserve its order.