The Uttarakhand high court refused to stay on Tuesday the disqualification of nine Congress lawmakers, whose dissidence prompted the Centre to dismiss the Harish Rawat government on March 27 and bring the hill state under President’s rule.
Justice UC Dhyani, who heard the rebel legislators’ plea challenging the assembly speaker’s order to disqualify them for siding with the BJP, said it would be inappropriate to pass an interim order because a division bench of the court is hearing a similar case.
Barring former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who Rawat had replaced after an intense intra-party power struggle in 2014, eight rebel Congress legislators had challenged their disqualification in the single bench of the court.
Earlier, senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal told the court that no leniency should be shown to the dissidents because their conduct, such as taking a bus ride and a chartered plane with BJP leaders, and staying with the rivals in a hotel, gave the speaker enough reasons to conclude that they were quitting the party.
He pointed to a letter from the nine Congress MLAs in which they said they voted against the finance bill — the trigger that plunged the state into political uncertainty.
Justice Dhyani asked the speaker’s counsel to file a counter-affidavit by Monday and told the petitioners to submit a rejoinder by April 22.
The court’s division bench will hear on April 18 two separate petitions of deposed chief minister Rawat challenging the President’s rule and the Centre’s ordinance on the finance bill.
Rawat was removed a day before he was to prove his majority through a floor test in the assembly. The division bench has provided an interim stay on the floor test till April 19.