Apex Court stays U’khand HC order…but with a rider

Rajat Kain

uttarakhand-supremeSupreme Court has stayed Uttarakhand High Court’s order of quashing the President’s rule in the state till April 27. Giving an interim order on the plea filed by the Centre on Friday, the top court has put the operation of the High Court order in abeyance pending its hearing. The bench has asked the High Court to provide the copies of its judgement to all the concerned parties by April 26.

Importantly, the apex court bench of Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice SK Singh has also imposed a rider on the Centre not to revoke the President’s rule till April 27, the day matter will be heard.

“The Supreme Court sought the undertaking that Union of India will not revoke President’s Proclamation till the next date of hearing,” Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said briefing the press at Supreme Court soon after Friday’s proceedings.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s interim order, Harish Rawat was reinstated as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and was slated to take a floor test on April 29. The fate of floor test now hinges on the Supreme Court hearing next week.

In a landmark judgement, hailed by several jurists across the country, Uttarakhand High Court division bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist had on Thursday set aside the President’s rule in the state, restoring the assembly status as on March 27, the day President’s rule was imposed.

Dehradun:  Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat during the Cabinet Meeting in Dehradun.  Photo - PTI

Dehradun: Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat during the Cabinet Meeting in Dehradun.
Photo – PTI

Pronouncing its verdict, Uttarakhand High Court ruled that President’s rule is a last resort and the Article 356 was imposed “contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court”. “Whatever material is submitted did not add up for a proclamation,” the division bench noted in its judgement quashing the President’s rule.

On the question of nine rebel Congress MLAs disqualified by the Assembly Speaker, the High Court firmly observed that “9 dissident Congress MLAs have to pay the price of committing ‘Constitutional sin’ of defection by being disqualified”.

The single bench of Uttarakhand High Court is slated to hear the petition filed by the nine disqualified rebel MLAs against the Speaker’s order on Saturday.

On the issue of one sting operation alleging horse trading by Harish Rawat, which was cited by the Centre to back their argument of “law and order breakdown” in the state, High Court ruled that the CD was “not verified”.

“From the records it is clear that it was received in CFSL Chandigarh on 27th March. Hence by the time the report came it was not part of the advice of the cabinet for imposition.”

Uttarakhand was placed under President’s rule on March 27, a day before the incumbent Harish Rawat government was slated to go for the trust vote.

Defending its move to impose President’s rule, the Centre claimed there was a breakdown of governance in the state given rebellion within the ruling party and Rawat government’s failure to get Appropriation Bill passed. On its part, however, Congress party claimed that Appropriation Bill was passed by the voice vote.