The Uttarakhand high court on Monday asked the Centre’s counsel to explain why President’s Rule was imposed on the state at a time when the Harish Rawat government was in its fifth year.
It raised this question while hearing a petition filed by the deposed chief minister against the central government’s decision, taken barely one day before a scheduled trial of strength in the assembly.
The high court asked the Centre whether it was not “totally extraneous” for it to be concerned over the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs, and “interfere” in the affairs of the state – something that should be done only in “extraordinary instances”.
“What is passing through our mind is, is it the lookout of the central government as to what would have happened on March 28 (when the floor test was to be held) in view of the changed composition, and in view of the nine ousted MLAs?” a bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi.
“Will it not be totally extraneous for the central government, which is ruled by another political party, to be concerned by the changed composition...” it added.
Noting that the demand for division of votes in the assembly when the Appropriation Bill was introduced was only a “solitary instance”, the high court said: “This is what’s colouring our minds. Can one solitary instance topple a democratically elected government in its fourth-fifth year... the root of the matter is that you are cutting at the root of democracy.”
Putting forth the Centre’s stand, Rohatgi said President Pranab Mukherjee had signed the order only after going through the facts. He said that 35 MLAs (including nine Congress rebels) had sought a division of votes on the appropriation bill on March 18, but it was not accepted by speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal. While BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi was arrested the same day, another member – Bhim Lal Arya – was told to absent himself from the house. BSP MLA Sarwat Kareem Ansari was also not present in the house, he contended.
Rohatgi said 35 of the 68 MLAs in the assembly were against the bill, but the speaker would not allow a division of the votes because he was aware that the government was in a minority.
Contending that the money bill itself was the floor test, the attorney general held that the government had fallen on the evening of March 18. To drive home the Centre’s point, Rohatgi produced a video recording of that day’s proceedings before the court.
(With PTI inputs)