High court quashes President's rule in Uttarakhand; orders floor test

Harish RawatThe Uttarakhand High Court has sets aside President's rule in the state and ordered a floor test on 29 April, dealing a major blow to the Narendra Modi government at the centre.

Allowing ousted chief minister Harish Rawat's petition challenging the Presidential proclamation, the bench, comprising bench Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist, observed that the material considered for imposing President's rule 'has been found wanting'.

The court ordered restoration of the Rawat government and directed the ousted chief minister to prove his government's majority on the floor of the assembly on 29 April.

The court also upheld the disqualification of nine dissident Congress MLAs and said they have to pay the price of committing the "Constitutional sin" of defection by being disqualified.

Coming down heavily on the centre for the 27 March proclamation under Art 356, the division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court said the imposition of the President's rule was contrary to the law.

"In the present case which was set into motion with March 18 as day one and saw a proclamation being issued in less than ten days brings to the fore a situation where 356 has been used contrary to the law laid down by the apex court.

"The material (considered for the proclamation) has been found wanting and justifies judicial review interfering with the proclamation," the court said.

The centre imposed President's rule in the state in March, just one day before Rawat was scheduled to prove his majority in the legislature. The centre said it acted on the advice of Uttarakhand governor K K Paul.

The centre said Rawat had lost his majority in the legislature in March, as evidenced by the fact that nine of his own party members voted against the budget.

Rawat, however, claims he will deliver the 36 votes he needs to remain in power.

He also dismissed as doctored a CD that the BJP furnished in which it claims he's seen attempting to buy votes.

The centre had argued that since President Pranab Muhkerjee signed off on the decision, the move could not be examined by courts.

The judges, however, said "Even the President can be wrong."

Congress workers celebrated the HC's decision outside Harish Rawat's residence in Dehradun.

Rawat said the centre opted to impose President's rule in the state ''just when we were about to prove our majority''. The Uttarakhand HC decision is a victory of people of the state, he added.

''PM Modi and Amit Shah will have to tender an unconditional apology to the nation for murdering constitutional norms,'' added Randeep Surjewala.

BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said the Harish Rawat government is in minority and that BJP will prove it on 29 April.