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Uttarakhand crisis: HC order adds to confusion on trust vote

Uttarakhand crisis Updated: Mar 30, 2016 16:35 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times

Dehradun: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat addressing the media outside the Assembly in Dehradun on Saturday, March 26, 2016. (PTI)

The Uttarakhand high court order asking the deposed Harish Rawat government to seek a trust vote in the state assembly has left many unanswered questions.

Justice UC Dhyani — who fixed Thursday for the trust vote — allowed the nine rebel Congress MLAs disqualified by Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal to take part in the proceedings. The HC also appointed a registrar as an observer.

The high court has not stayed the Presidential Proclamation. “There is no question of staying the effect of Proclamation under Article 356 of the Constitution of India at this stage,” Justice Dhayani said in his order.

While admitting that there was presumption of validity in favour of Presidential Proclamation and the scope for its judicial review was limited, the HC insisted it could pass an interim order in the facts and circumstances of the case.

But the court order has complicated the questions it intended to answer.

Read | Cong welcomes HC order on Uttarakhand trust vote, Centre to challenge

The imposition of President’s Rule has two immediate fallouts — the state government gets dismissed and the assembly is put under suspended animation.

By its own admission, the HC has not stayed President’s Rule. It means the assembly remains under suspended animation.

Can there be a trust vote without reviving the state assembly? The HC order does not give a clear answer to it.

Second, if President’s Rule has not been stayed, the Rawat government remains a dismissed government, which doesn’t legally exist. Then, how can a non-existent government seek a trust vote?

“The Assembly is in suspended animation. It has not been dissolved… Speaker continues to hold office. This court intends to pass an interim order without prejudice to rival contentions, but according to constitutional postulates. Floor test is the best test, as has been held by the Hon’ble Apex Court on a number of occasions…,” the HC said, adding it could not be a mute spectator till final disposal of the petition against President’s Rule.

The HC also allowed the nine rebel Congress MLAs disqualified by the Speaker to take part in the trust vote. “To give the floor test a semblance of neutrality, and without prejudice to the rival contentions, all the MLAs shall be entitled to take part in the floor test, with, without or despite their disqualification,” the HC said. It shall be subject to adjudication by a competent court, it added.

The HC has not stayed the Speaker’s order of disqualification. Technically, they continue to remain disqualified and their petition against disqualification is yet to be taken up. Can the disqualified MLAs be allowed to take part in the trust vote without the Speaker’s order being stayed?

If implemented, the HC order will create history of sorts. A dismissed government will face a trust vote in an assembly kept under suspended animation in which disqualified MLAs can take part. The order certainly calls for revision.