The Nainital high court ordered on Tuesday a floor test in the Uttarakhand assembly on March 31 and allowed the participation of nine rebel Congress legislators who switched their support to the BJP.
The dramatic development came on a petition by the Congress against the Centre’s Sunday decision to dismiss the party’s government and impose President’s Rule.
The floor test will be held at 11am on Thursday and the Registrar General of the Nainital HC will be present as an observer. The observer will brief the HC about the result of the floor test and an announcement in this regard will be made by the court accordingly.
Hearing a petition by Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat, the court also said that all nine Congress rebels who were disqualified by the speaker will be allowed to take part in the vote.
It said the result of the voting should be presented to the court on April 1.
Congress spokesperson and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the ruling followed two days of extensive arguments.
“The high court accepts the point that despite President’s Rule there is enough scope for judicial review to allow a floor test to take place,” he told the media, “This was asked by us.”
“Mere horse trading allegations will not justify President’s Rule and stop floor test,” he added.
He said the court has implemented what the governor had said thrice and what the chief minister has said twice.
Singhvi said the court has allowed the disqualified Congress legislators to take part in the voting but their vote would be taken into consideration separately.
A stunnned Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it was no victory for the Congress but described as “unprecedented” the court verdict to allow floor test during President’s Rule.
“To order something like this during President’s Rule is unprecedented,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
The government of outgoing chief minister Rawat was plunged into crisis two weeks ago, when nine rebel Congress MLAs supported the BJP during the controversial passage of the finance bill in the House.
The switch prompted governor KK Paul to call for a trust vote on March 28.
But a sting video surfaced days before the vote, purportedly showing Rawat offering money to rebel MLAs.
A day later, speaker Govind Kunjwal disqualified the nine rebels under the anti-defection law. Within hours, the Centre clamped President’s Rule.
In the 70-member assembly, the Congress has 36 legislators – including the nine rebels – the BJP has 28 and the other six MLAs are said to support the Congress. One additional member is nominated from the Anglo-Indian community.