HC puts off Uttarakhand trust vote to 7 April

Harish RawatIn yet another twist to political crisis in Uttarakhand, a division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court today stayed till 7 April the floor test in the assembly that was slated for Thursday.

Staying the order of the single judge bench of U C Dhyani (See: HC allows floor test in Uttarakhand despite President's Rule)., a two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K M Joseph posted the matter for 6 April for final hearing on the writ petition filed by ousted chief minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President's Rule in the state.

''In view of the consent of the parties that the writ petition be posted to 06-04-2016 for being disposed of finally, we direct that the order, which is impugned in these appeals will be kept in abeyance till 07-04-2016,'' said the bench, also comprising Justice V K Bist, in a brief order

The order came after Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the union government, strongly opposed Tuesday's order, saying courts cannot interfere with a Presidential proclamation.

''How can a floor test be ordered when a Presidential proclamation is in force and the Assembly is in suspended animation,'' Rohatgi said.

The bench noted that the AG and senior advocate Abishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Rawat, agreed that the writ petition which has given rise to these appeals may be ''withdrawn to this bench'' and be finally disposed of.

The AG said the Centre's counter affidavit, along with that of Centrally-ruled Uttarakhand, would be filed by 4 April. The court gave 24 hours to Rawat to file a rejoinder affidavit to the counter-affidavits.

Earlier, the trust vote was slated for 28 March, but the Centre imposed President's Rule on 27 March a day before the vote, citing ''breakdown of Constitutional machinery'' in the dtate.

This was challenged by Rawat before the single judge U C Dhyani of the High Court.

The Justice Dhyani, while ordering the floor test on 31 March, had also allowed nine disqualified rebel Congress MLAs to participate in the voting.

The Congress was unhappy and had planned to challenge this aspect of the order.

Ordering the floor test on Tuesday, Justice Dhyani had observed that invoking of Article 356 of the Constitution by the Centre was a ''colourable exercise of power''.

''Democratically-elected houses should not be demolished in such a fashion. Floor test is the only test to prove the majority,'' he had said even though he ruled out staying the effect of the proclamation under Article 356 at this stage.

Advocate Nalin Kohli, who was part of the lawyers' team representing the Centre, said the Centre will file its counter before the Division Bench on 4 April, for which the other side will file its reply the next day.

Rebels' plea put off
Meanwhile, Justice Dhyani put off hearing on a plea by rebel Congress MLAs challenging their disqualification by Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal after President's Rule was imposed.

Posting hearing on the disqualified MLAs' appeal to 1 April, Justice Dhyani said as per the interim order issued by him on Tuesday they have already been given relief by being allowed to vote during a floor test despite being disqualified.

The court also told them that although they have been allowed to vote in the Assembly during floor test their votes will not be treated on par with the rest of the MLAs but dealt with separately.

An appeal was filed on Wednesday by six of the nine rebel MLAs against the speaker's action questioning its validity on the ground that the action had been taken after imposition of President's rule and suspension of the assembly.