Uttarakhand will remain under President’s rule, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, drawing the curtains on the April 29 test of strength in the assembly by former chief minister Harish Rawat.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh also posed seven questions to the Centre and said that a floor test could be the best option to resolve the issue. The case will come up for hearing again on May 3.
The apex court is hearing a petition by the Centre challenging the Uttarakhand high court’s verdict quashing central rule in the state and allowing the former CM Rawat to prove his government’s strength in the assembly on Friday.
“The matter has its own gravity and ultimately in such a case prima facie we have to sustain democracy and if we don’t find merit with the President’s Rule then we will have to have a floor test,” the apex court said.
The apex court also expressed displeasure over the manner in which the state was brought under central rule.
“Article 356 of the Constitution (under which the Centre notifies President’s Rule) has to be a rare phenomena… You (Centre) are venturing into an arena where you are not supposed to,” the bench said.
Assuming the Rawat government had lost the majority, the SC said floor test should have been conducted in the house instead of the President’s Rule because it creates a “dent in democracy”.
At the end two-hour-long hearing, the court wanted to permit the floor test but refrained from passing the order at attorney general Mukul Rohatgi’s request.
On March 27, the Centre brought Uttarakhand under President’s rule citing a constitutional breakdown in the wake of a rebellion in the ruling Congress. Nine MLAs of the ruling party joined BJP legislators to claim that the Rawat government had lost majority in the assembly due to the non-passage of the money bill.
Rohatgi criticised the HC judgment on the ground that it ignored the alleged corrupt acts Rawat indulged in. He condemned the speaker’s conduct in refusing division of votes as demanded by the BJP and rebel Congress MLAs. “That was the demand of the majority of the House,” he argued.
But the court was not impressed by the argument.
“(The) speaker is the master of the house. Whether there will be division or not who will decide? Can it be gone into whether a bill has been passed or not by the President and can the governor exercise his jurisdiction over the assembly?”
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of Rawat, asserted that a floor test “was the only panacea to determine the majority of a government”. He pointed out that the Centre was complaining of horse-trading but was silent on the nine Congress MLAs who defected.
Reacting to the apex court’s stay on the proposed floor test, Rawat said he would abide by the order.