Sacked Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat will have to prove his government’s majority in the assembly on May 10, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday and asked that the proceedings be videotaped.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said President’s rule in the state will be lifted between 10.30am and 1pm to hold the floor test. It also said nine Congress MLAs, whose revolt plunged Rawat’s government into crisis, will be able to vote only if the Uttarakhand high court allowed it.
“The entire proceedings shall be videographed so that it can be perused by this court if required,” it said. The principal secretary of the assembly will supervise the vote.
Crisis gripped Rawat’s Congress-led government after nine of his MLAs sided with the opposition BJP during a debate over the finance bill in March, prompting the Speaker to disqualify them from the House. The standoff snowballed after the Centre imposed President’s rule citing a “constitutional crisis”, just a day before Rawat was to take a floor test on the orders of the governor.
Thereafter, the Uttarakhand high court struck down President’s rule on an appeal from the state government and ordered a trust vote for Rawat on April 29. But the next day, the Supreme Court stayed the high court’s verdict following a challenge by the Centre.
Much of Rawat’s fate will now depend on the Congress rebels’ petition against their disqualification, which comes up before the Uttarakhand high court on Saturday. The deposed chief minister could find it difficult to win the trust vote if the rebels are permitted to take part in the floor test.
But if they aren’t, the strength of the 70-member House will stand reduced to 62, handing an advantage to Rawat. However, he will still need the support of at least four MLAs from the Progressive Democratic Front, a coalition of non-BJP/non-Congress lawmakers.
“We welcome the court decision… I am confident of proving majority on the floor of the House as I have the required numbers,” Rawat said shortly after the top court issued the order.
The court also ordered the assembly principal secretary to place before it in sealed cover all the documents of the trust vote, including the result and video of the proceedings on May 11 when it takes up the matter again.
It turned down Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s suggestion to appoint a former chief election commissioner as an observer for the floor test.
Laying down the modalities of the proceedings, the court said “the House shall divide and those in favour of motion will sit one way/side and those against motion will on other way/ side.”