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Uttarakhand HC defers decision on rebel Cong MLAs’ disqualification

Uttarakhand crisis Updated: Apr 24, 2016 09:41 IST
Abhinav Madhwal
Uttarakhand crisis

Congress rebel Kunwar Pranav Champion, Vijay Bahuguna, Harak Singh Rawat and Subodh Uniyal after a meeting. (Vinay Santosh Kumar/ HT Photo)

The Uttarakhand high court on Saturday deferred its decision on a petition filed by nine Congress rebels challenging their disqualification by the assembly speaker.

The deferment kept alive the suspense over the fate of the nine legislators who plunged the state into political crisis and are crucial to the BJP’s hopes of forming the government in the hill state.

Fixing Monday for the next hearing in the case, the court of justice UC Dhyani said it will deliver its verdict before April 29 when former chief minister Harish Rawat has been asked to prove his government’s majority by a two-judge bench.

The high court’s observation came a day after the Supreme Court stayed the two-judge bench’s revocation of President’s rule in the hill state, giving a breather to the BJP-led government at the Centre.

The apex court’s verdict, likely on April 27, will decide whether Rawat will get the chance to prove his government’s majority in the house.

The Centre had clamped President’s rule in the state on March 27 citing “governance breakdown”, just a day before Rawat was to prove his strength in the assembly.

The Congress accuses the BJP trying to topple governments in opposition-ruled state and the issue is likely to see fireworks in Parliament when it reconvenes on Monday.

Pleading on behalf of assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the nine rebels have violated the law against defection and deserved to be punished for it.

Read: Congress gives notice for Rajya Sabha debate, resolution on Uttarakhand

“How can you stay a disqualification? They have committed a constitutional sin and are yet seeking the stay on this sin,” Sibal said referring to an observation made by the two-judge bench on Thursday.

He said the rebels knew it was “unethical and unconstitutional” when they joined the BJP and signed a memorandum seeking division of votes during the budget session of the assembly in March.

Sibal accused the MLAs of trying to jump the hierarchy of courts by going to the Supreme Court seeking transfer of the court to the apex court.

Earlier, Vikas Bahuguna, the counsel of the rebel MLAs, sought adjournment until Monday saying that his senior lawyers were not present to argue the case.

Though the speaker’s junior lawyer objected saying that Sibal was on his way to the court, the judge allowed the rebel MLAs to put their arguments on Monday. Sibal argued in the afternoon.

Rawat, meanwhile, accused the BJP of threatening Congress and PDF MLAs and urged the governor to provide security to them.

“BJP leaders are building an atmosphere of animosity and bitterness in the state. They are even issuing threats to Congress and PDF MLAs,” Rawat told reporters.

The six-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), a combination of BSP, UKD and Independent MLAs, was a part of the Rawat government and has stood by him during the current political crisis in the state.

Read: SC stays Uttarakhand HC order which set aside President’s Rule in state