Uttarkahand rebels appeal to SC as HC says they can't vote

In what should prove an advantage to ousted Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat in the confidence vote on Tuesday, the Uttarakhand High Court today dismissed the petition of nine rebel Congress MLAs challenging their disqualification by the Speaker.

The nine MLAs immediately challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.

Dismissing their petition, the single judge bench of Justice U C Dhyani of the high court said the petition stands dismissed and asked the MLAs to go back to Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal seeking a review of his action if they so wished.

The judgement will make the Bharatiya Janata Party's task difficult in the confidence vote to be sought by Rawat tomorrow as it will be left with only 28 MLAs, including Bhim Lal Arya, whose loyalty to the party is in doubt. Though suspended by the BJP, Arya continues to represent the party in the house.

It may give Rawat an advantage in the floor test, which will now be held in the Assembly with an effective strength of 62 in which the winning side will need 31 MLAs for a majority.

Moments after the high court pronounced its order, the MLAs moved the Supreme Court.

Counsel for the MLAs C A Sundaram mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of India T S Thakur. The CJI asked the counsel to approach the bench, which had on Friday ordered the floor test.

The fresh petition was to be heard at 2 pm.

Meanwhile, the same bench is also expected to hear the Centre's petition seeking modification of its order on the floor test saying the official concerned has refused to act as observer on the ground that a clarification is needed on his designation.

Monday's order of the high court ensures that the disqualification of the MLAs stays and would keep the rebel MLAs out of the proceedings during the confidence vote for Rawat in the Assembly tomorrow unless overturned by the apex court.

Ordering a floor test on 10 May in the Assembly, the Supreme Court had said "if they (disqualified MLAs) have the same status" at the time of vote of confidence, they cannot participate in the House.

A specially convened two-hour-long session during which the President's Rule will be kept in abeyance will be held between 11 am and 1 pm for a "single agenda" of floor test, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh had said.