Court asks Centre reasons for imposing Prez rule

RSTV Bureau
FILE: Dehradun: File photo of former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat addressing a presser at Dehradun, March 29, 2016. Photo - PTI

FILE: Dehradun: File photo of former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat addressing a presser at Dehradun, March 29, 2016.
Photo – PTI

The Centre on Monday faced tough questions raised by the Uttarakhand High Court over the matter concerning imposition of President’s rule in the state last month. Resuming its hearing, the division bench of Uttarakhand HC asked Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi the grounds behind imposing the Presidential Rule in the state a day before the then incumbent government was slated to face floor test.

The court also sought to know if it was not “totally extraneous” for the Union government to be concerned over the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs and to “interfere” in the affairs of the state.

“What is passing through our mind is, is it the lookout of the Central government as to what would have happened on March 28 (when floor test was to be held) in view of the changed composition and in view of the nine ousted MLAs?” a bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bisht asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

“Will it not be totally extraneous for Central government, which is ruled by another political party, to be concerned by changed composition,” the court asked.

The High court is hearing former Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s plea challenging the imposition of President’s rule in the state. 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.

FILE: Rebel Congress MLAs with a BJP legislator at Uttarkhand Governor KK Paul's residence in the state capital Deharadun on March 19, 2016.

FILE: Rebel Congress MLAs with a BJP legislator at Uttarkhand Governor KK Paul’s residence in the state capital Deharadun on March 19, 2016.

Referring to Centre’s contention that the division of votes in the Assembly wasn’t allowed after the Appropriation Bill was introduced, the bench asked can one solitary instance topple a democratically-elected government in its fourth-fifth year.

Defending its move, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi contended since no vote was held, the money bill had failed and this amounted to the state government having fallen on March 18.

Alleging twisting of facts, he further said “they presented a picture that article 356 was imposed after appropriation bill was passed,” he said the Speaker’s decision to not allow 35 MLAs to vote on their demand for division, when the money bill was introduced, amounted to “destroying democracy”.

“Everyday when there is a contest at the time of introduction of a money bill, then it is a floor test,” the AG said.

The court then asked, “when there was no voting, how can it be said it was against the state government. It could be bill neither passed nor defeated”.

To this the AG said that despite there being no voting, the Speaker claimed to the Governor that bill has been passed. “Since the bill was not passed, then it amounts to government having fallen,” the Attorney General added.

The bench further asked if the government had fallen after the floor test, then would it not be the Governor’s prerogative to invite someone to form an alternate government. The arguments are expected to go on for few days before the court decides on the matter.

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.

(With inputs from the Agencies)