High Court allows floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly

Rajat Kain

FILE: File photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat

FILE: File photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat

The single bench of Uttarakhand High Court has allowed for a floor test in the Assembly giving an opportunity to the Congress party to prove their claims of having a majority in the house. The floor test will be conducted on Thursday, March 31 and its result will be submitted before the court in a sealed envelope next day, April 1. There is, however, no change in the status of President’s rule in the state.

The state assembly has been put under suspended animation following the imposition of President’s rule by the Centre on Sunday, a day before Harish Rawat government was slated to go for the trust vote.

“After two days of intense argument, the court has given a far-reaching order… All MLAs, including the nine ruling Congress rebels, can participate in the trial of strength,” Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who argued for ex-CM Harish Rawat told the press.

In a significant move, the High Court has also allowed the nine rebel MLAs of Congress party to participate in the voting.

The nine MLAs, who sided with the BJP after breaking away, were disqualified by Speaker Gobind Singh Kunjwal under anti-defection law on Sunday. The court also ordered that the votes of nine rebel MLAs will be kept separately.

“The court has not set aside the disqualification of the nine MLAs but has only allowed them to vote,” Singhvi added.

FILE: Leader of opposition Ajay Bhatt with rebel Congress MLAs, a BJP legislator at Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul's residence in Dehradun on March 19, 2016.  Photo - PTI

FILE: Leader of opposition Ajay Bhatt with rebel Congress MLAs, a BJP legislator at Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul’s residence in Dehradun on March 19, 2016.
Photo – PTI

In its petition filed against the proclamation of President’s rule, Congress party termed the Centre’s action of imposing a President’s rule as arbitrary and malafide.

“…the manner, in which the Article 356 was unleashed upon the State between the 26th and 27th of March, 2016, clearly shows that the Respondent (Central government) had with a hidden agenda exercised powers under Article 356 to topple the democratically elected government of the Congress party in the State of Uttarakhand,” ex-Chief Minister Harish Rawat contended in his petition demanding the quashing of President’s rule.

On the other hand, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, contested Rawat’s plea pointing that the court cannot order on the validity of President’s rule in the course of interim arguments.

After hearing both the sides, the single bench pronounced its verdict in the afternoon.

Before the crisis unfolded, the Congress had 36 MLAs in the 70-member Assembly. The ruling party also has the support of 6 members of the Progressive Democratic Front, while opposition BJP has 28 MLAs.

Nine MLAs of the Congress party, including former CM Vijay Bahuguna and senior minister Harak Singh Rawat, had rebelled on March 18 leading to political crises in the state. Soon after, the BJP paraded nine Congress rebel along with their 26 MLAs before the Governor claiming numbers on its part. But Governor KK Paul asked Harish Rawat to prove his majority on March 28.

Just two days before the trust vote, Rawat got embroiled in a controversy with rebel Congress MLAs alleging him of offering a bribe for support during the floor test.

Defending its move to impose President’s rule, the Centre had claimed there was a breakdown of governance in the state given rebellion within the ruling party.