SC defers floor test in Uttarakhand assembly, questions central rule

The apex court said its previous order staying Uttarakhand High Court order will continue, implying that there will be no floor test in the state assembly on 29 April, even as it sought answers from the centre on seven questions pertaining to imposition of central rule in Uttarkhand.

An apex court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra had, on 22 April, stayed the Uttarakhand high court's verdict reinstating chief minister Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand. The high court had also directed a floor test in the state assembly to verify the strength of the ruling party and the opposition in the House on 29 April.

The Supreme Court was hearing pleas by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who represented the centre in its petition against Uttarakhand High Court's order which set aside President's rule in the state.

The Supreme Court, however, posed seven questions before the central govern and has sought answers to them:

  • Whether governor could have sent message in present manner under Article 175 (2) to conduct floor test?
  • Whether governor can ask Assembly Speaker for division of votes as both are Constitutional authorities?
  • Can a delay in the floor test be ground for proclamation of President's rule in state?
  • Convention is money bill failed, government goes but who is to say money bill hasn't been passed if Speaker doesn't say so?
  • What is the stage of appropriation bill and when President's rule comes in the picture with regards to Appropriation bill?
  • Whether disqualification of MLAs by the Speaker is a relevant issue for the purpose of imposing President's rule under Article 356?
  • Can proceeding in the Uttarakhand Assembly be taken note by the President for imposing President's rule?

The political crisis in Uttarakhand emerged after nine rebel MLAs from Congress defected to BJP during a debate over the state budget in March. They were later disqualified. Following the disqualification, Governor KK Paul asked deposed chief minister Rawat to prove his majority in the assembly.

The Supreme Court stayed the order of the Uttarakhand High Court passed on 22 April reversing a Presidential proclamation imposing central rule in the state (See: Supreme Court stays HC order lifting central rule in Uttarakhand ).

The apex court had then clarified that it was keeping in abeyance the judgement of the High Court till the next date of hearing on 27 April as a measure of balance for both the parties as the copy of the verdict was not made available to the parties.

While setting aside central rule imposed last month, the high court had said that Article 356 was imposed in the state, contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court. The court also accused the centre of acting on blatant falsehood and behaving like a private party.

The entire case revolves around an ''illegal transaction of business in the state assembly on 18 March by the speaker who denied a division of votes on the appropriation bill adopting a partisan approach''.

The centre said the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand is a temporary measure and the assembly can be revived on the basis of the governor's report.

The high court, had on Wednesday said, "even the President can be terribly wrong" and on Thursday, while delivering the order made strong remarks about central rule being the last resort and that dismissal of elected governments bred cynicism in citizens.

Declaring that the "draconian 356" should not have been imposed, a bench of Chief Justice KM Jospeh and Justice V K Bist said, "The said party (BJP) was a direct beneficiary of Article 356, which was not justified as there was no riot or violence in the state. The central government has to work in a completely non-partisan manner and without bias."