Uttarakhand: HC flays Centre for 'cutting at roots of democracy'

The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday castigated the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre on the imposition of President's Rule in the state, saying, "You [the union government] are cutting at the roots of democracy".

The state government was dissolved after much chaos over the passage of the Appropriation Bill on 18 March, when 35 MLAs, including nine rebel Congress MLAs, said their demand for a division of votes was ignored by the Speaker.

''Can one solitary instance topple a democratically-elected government in its fourth or fifth year?" the court asked.

A bench of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist said the Centre is supposed to have a neutral stand in matters concerning the states, and it is ''totally extraneous'' for the central government to be concerned about the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs in a state ruled by an opposition party. The bench said such interference should be reserved for extraordinary situations alone.

''The floor test was scheduled for March 28 ... the Governor had communicated to the Speaker about the floor test. What was the hurry to impose President's Rule?'' the court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

The court observed that the Governor should ideally be a "non-partisan" person, not an "agent" of the central government.

Ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat will undergo a floor test in the state Assembly today.

Defending the Centre's act of imposing of President's Rule in Uttarakhand, Attorney General Rohatgi said Rawat had presented ''misleading'' arguments in his petition.

On 18 March, when the Appropriation Bill was presented in the Assembly, nine Congress MLAs, along with BJP MLAs, demanded a division of votes. However, according to the BJP, speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, while ignoring their demand, had ''unconstitutionally'' shown the Bill as passed.

On 27 March, President's Rule was imposed based on the Centre's argument that the Appropriation Bill not having been passed in the State, the Centre had to intervene to pass an ordinance and ensure financial stability in the State.

President's Rule was imposed discarding Governor K K Paul's decision allowing  Rawat to face a floor test on 28 March, when Rawat filed a petition in the Uttarakhand High Court challenging President's Rule.