Uttarakhand: 'seriously considering' floor test, Centre tells SC

Modifying its stand after the Supreme Court's suggestion for an immediate floor test in the Uttarakhand assembly, the union government on Wednesday said it was ''seriously considering'' this.

A day after a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh reiterated its proposal to the  centre to have a floor test and end the constitutional impasse in the State since President's Rule was proclaimed on 27 March, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said he had conveyed the suggestion to the government in ''right earnest''.

''I have not received any message from the government till this morning. They are seriously considering the honourable court's suggestion and [will] get back at the earliest by Friday [6 May],'' Rohatgi said.

The bench is hearing an appeal by the centre against the Uttarakhand High Court verdict striking down President's Rule in the state.

The court took note of the change in the centre's stand. ''On the first day you said 'no'. Now, you are saying we are seriously considering our suggestion to hold a floor test. Let's see what you say on that day,'' was how Justice Misra reacted.

While the court was dictating its order, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi, representing the former chief minister, Harish Rawat, asked the court to specify in its order that the floor test is a ''floor test on a vote of confidence motion.''

Rohatgi objected to this, saying the floor test would be an opportunity for ''both parties [the BJP and the Congress] to prove their majority in the Assembly.''

But Justice Misra said that would not be the case and clarified the position in law.

The bench made it clear that the floor test, if ordered by the court, would only be an opportunity for Rawat to prove his majority and not a window for the formation of a new government.

''We will not restore status quo ante. The first respondent [Rawat] should prove his majority in the floor test,'' Justice Misra said.

The bench said that if a floor test was ordered, it would be according to the ''Jharkhand principle''.

It was referring to an interim order passed by the Supreme Court in March 2005, directing the pro-tem speaker of the Jharkhand Assembly to conduct a composite floor test to ascertain who had the majority - chief minister Shibu Soren, appointed by the governor, or the former chief minister, Arjun Munda.

In 2005, the Supreme Court had advanced the date of the floor test, directed pro-tem Speaker Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu to administer the oath of office to the newly elected members and conduct the floor test the very next day. The court had made it clear that its order would be construed as notice for conducting a floor test and no separate notice was required.