The Supreme Court stayed until April 27 an Uttarakhand high court order that had revoked President’s Rule in the state, handing a reprieve to the Narendra Modi-led government on Friday.
After an hour-long hearing of a Centre’s petition challenging Thursday’s high court order, the top court said it was keeping the verdict in abeyance in absence of a copy of the ruling.
“You don’t revoke President’s rule just like that. The files should have been called for. How much deliberation has gone into the issue? This is a serious matter,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said.
The SC stay came after attorney general Mukul Rohatgi gave an undertaking that the Centre will not revoke President’s rule until April 27.
The interim order means central rule returns to the hill state and the Harish Rawat-led Congress government would not be able to make any decisions for now.
Though the top court’s order comes as a relief to the Centre, it is unlikely to stop the Congress-led opposition from launching a frontal attack on the Modi government when Parliament reconvenes on Monday . The Congress accuses the BJP of trying to topple opposition-ruled states.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi met her trusted lieutenants on Thursday to discuss the party’s strategy after the high court verdict.
Congress leaders told HT that there was no question of supporting the government on any issue including the crucial GST bill after the BJP’s “assault on democratically-elected state governments”.
Rawat’s government plunged into crisis after nine of his MLAs revolted and sided with the opposition BJP during a debate over the state budget in March. This prompted governor KK Paul to ask Rawat to prove his majority in the assembly. But a day before the trust vote, the Centre imposed President’s Rule, citing breakdown in the constitutional machinery.
The apex court also directed the HC, which had asked Rawat to prove his government’s majority on April 29, to provide a copy of its order to all concerned by April 26. Dictated in open court, the HC order is yet to be signed by the judges who delivered it.
The Supreme Court bench indicated that the matter might be referred to a constitution bench.
Rohatgi said Rawat took over as the chief minister within hours of the HC order, held cabinet meetings and took 11 policy decisions without even getting the documents revoking President’s Rule.
“Horse trading creates a dent in democracy,” the bench remarked when Rohatgi alleged that there was a constitutional breakdown because Rawat indulged in corruption.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who pleaded on behalf of Rawat, denied the horse-trading allegations and opposed a stay on the HC order.
Arguing for the Uttarakhand assembly speaker, senior advocate Kapil Sibal objected to the interim order, which he said will amount to allowing Centre’s appeal.
The SC, however, refused to hear the rebel Congress lawmakers’ petition seeking transfer of their cases pending before the HC where they have challenged their disqualification.
Reacting to the Supreme Court stay, Rawat sought to put up a brave front. “This order is interim because the SC didn’t have the high court’s judgment copy,” he told reporters.
“The state is facing a huge issue. Until the SC makes a final judgment, President’s Rule can’t be revoked,” he added.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said the party was confident of having its way in the state but added it was in no hurry to form the government.