U’khand HC sets aside Prez rule; Rawat to face floor test

Rajat Kain

FILE: File photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat

FILE: File photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat

Uttarakhand High Court has set aside the President’s rule in the state. Allowing the petition filed by former Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the Presidential proclamation, the division bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist restored the assembly status as on March 27, the day President’s rule was imposed.

With the order, Harish Rawat now gets a chance to prove his majority on the floor of the assembly. The test will take place on April 29.

Pronouncing its verdict, Uttarakhand High Court also 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 bench observed “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.”

Earlier in the day, the Centre came in for a rap when the bench sought an assurance that President’s rule will not be revoked till court’s judgement is out. The court was seeking centre’s assurance after Congress party raised apprehensions that the Centre may revoke President’s rule.

“If you recall 356 and call someone else to form a government, what else would it be other than travesty of justice,” the bench of Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist said in the morning.

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.

But soon after the imposition, Harish Rawat got reprieve with single bench of Uttarakhand High Court in its interim order allowing the floor test to be conducted on March 31. That order was stayed by the division bench pending hearing of the appeal filed by the Centre.

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.