The Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it was “seriously considering” the suggestion to hold a floor test in Uttarakhand under the court’s supervision and took time till May 6 to revert with a final response.
“I have conveyed the court’s suggestion (to the Centre) in right earnest,” attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh who agreed to hear the Centre’s petition challenging the Uttarakhand high court order quashing President’s rule in the state on Friday.
“If the government accepts the suggestion, it will subserve the cause of democracy,” the judges said, noting Rohatgi’s submission. The court extended its interim order that lets the presidential proclamation continue until further orders.
The bench, however, made it clear that unlike the high court it would not “restore the status quo ante”. This means former chief minister Harish Rawat will have to first prove his majority and then form a government.
Rawat resumed the CM’s post immediately after the high court judgment on April 21, held a cabinet meeting and cleared 11 resolutions. The Centre in its appeal before the top court strongly objected to the hasty decisions.
The court’s clarification came after Rohatgi and Rawat’s lawyers entered into an argument over whether the former CM would face a floor test or a vote of confidence. Rawat’s counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi disagreed with the bench’s view that the matter be referred to a larger bench.
The lawyers said the issues before the bench were pre-decided and the question was not that of a floor test but of a vote of confidence. “It cannot be in any way called vote of no confidence,” the counsel argued.
Rohatgi contested the claim. He said Rawat could not project himself as chief minister as President’s rule was in operation by virtue of the top court’s order. “It’s a situation where both parties will face the floor test to prove their majority,” he told the court.
Singhvi rebutted, saying a floor test could not be for a party that was not in power and the person who had to be called to prove majority was the one who was chief minister. At this, Rohatgi asked the court to decide the modalities for the floor test on Friday.
The bench told the attorney general it would proceed with the arguments on the next date even if he did not obtain instructions from the central government. Rawat’s advocates did not resist the adjournment but accused the Centre of delaying the matter.
“Union of India is seriously considering the suggestion given by this court to have a floor test in assembly to put an end to the controversy that has emerged in this case,” the court said in its order.
Rohatgi told the court he had received instructions from the government in the morning. The bench had on Tuesday asked him to come back with a response on the feasibility of holding a floor test in Uttarakhand.