The Supreme Court Tuesday ordered floor test for Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday to prove his majority in the House saying there is a “possibility of horse trading” in case of delay.
As a month has elapsed after the declaration of results of the Assembly elections it is incumbent upon the court to protect the democratic values for which immediate floor test is the most effective mechanism to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading as well as to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable Government, it said.
The apex court asked Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to appoint a pro-tem speaker and ensure that all the elected members of the House are sworn in on Wednesday itself by 5:00 PM for paving the way for floor test.
It directed that the voting in the Assembly will not be on the basis of secret ballot and the entire proceeding will have to be telecast live.
The top court made it absolutely clear that “Pro-tem Speaker shall be solely appointed for the aforesaid agenda immediately”.
“In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so,” said a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.
“In the present case, oath has not been administered to the elected members even though a month has elapsed since the declaration of election results. In such emergent facts and circumstances, to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading, to avoid uncertainty and to effectuate smooth running of democracy by ensuring a stable Government, we are of the considered opinion that it is necessary to pass certain interim directions in this case.
“In this context, it is necessary and expedient to conduct floor test as soon as possible to determine whether the CM, who was administered oath of office, has the support of the majority or not,” the bench said in its 19-page order.
The top court said: “Since the elected members of the Legislative Assembly are yet to take oath as specified in the III Schedule of the Constitution, and the Speaker is also yet to be elected, we request Governor of the State of Maharashtra to ensure that a floor test be held on November 27, 2019″.
The bench said: “Protem Speaker shall be solely appointed for the aforesaid agenda immediately. All the elected members shall take oath on November 27, which exercise should be completed before 5 pm. Immediately thereafter, the Protem Speaker shall conduct the floor test in order to ascertain whether the Respondent No. 3 (Fadnavis)has majority, and these proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with law.
“The floor test will not be conducted by secret ballot. The proceedings have to be live telecast, and appropriate arrangements are to be made to ensure the same.”
The apex court said that the parties have raised questions concerning important constitutional issues like extent of judicial review and validity of the Governor’s satisfaction but they would be adjudicated at an appropriate time.
“There is no doubt that the contentions have to be answered, as the petitioners have raised questions concerning important constitutional issues touching upon the democratic bulwark of our nation.
“However, at this interim stage, we may note that it is imperative for this Court to be cognizant of the need to take into consideration the competing claims of the parties, uphold the democratic values and foster constitutional morality,” it said.
The bench said that “undemocratic and illegal practices within the political arena should be curtailed”.
The apex court concluded the brief proceeding by saying that replies to the main petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine against the Governor’s decision to swear Fadnavis as chief minister will be done in eight weeks and posted the matter for hearing after twelve weeks.
The Fadnavis-led BJP government took charge in Maharashtra on Saturday after the President’s rule, imposed in the state about a fortnight ago, was revoked at 5.47 am.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Devendra Fadnavis and Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Ajit Pawar took oath as the chief minister and deputy chief minister of Maharashtra after the President’s rule was revoked.
In the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP is the single-largest party with 105 MLAs, followed by the Shiv Sena (56 MLAs), the NCP (54 MLAs) and the Congress (44 MLAs).
The combine had on Saturday night filed a petition seeking quashing of the Maharashtra governor’s decision and demanded an immediate floor test to avoid “further horse trading”.
The three parties also sought a direction to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to invite them to form government under the leadership of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, saying they have the support of more than 144 MLAs.