Uttarakhand HC Orders Floor Test in Assembly on March 31

Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat addressing the media outside the assembly in Dehradun on Saturday. Credit: PTI

Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat addressing the media outside the assembly in Dehradun on Saturday. Credit: PTI

Nainital: The Uttarakhand high court has ordered a floor test in the Assembly on March 31, in the latest developments in the ongoing crisis in the state where President’s rule was imposed on Sunday.

All MLAs, including the nine Congress rebels, can participate in the show of strength but the votes of the disqualified legislators will be kept separate. These will be taken into account subject to the final outcome of the writ petition filed by former Chief Minister Harish Rawat challenging the imposition of President’s rule, senior Supreme Court lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters after the second day of the hearing here.

The high court ordered the Director General of Police to ensure security at the Assembly when the floor test is carried out on Thursday.

Rawat, whose government was dismissed on Sunday on the grounds of a “breakdown of Constitutional machinery,” had moved the court yesterday, calling the Centre’s decision “arbitrary” and demanded its quashing.

Singhvi said the court accepted the Congress position that despite President’s rule there was enough scope for a judicial review to allow a floor test, as sought by the party.

He said Governor K. K. Paul had called for a floor test on March 28 and Rawat too had made the same demand twice. He also said the allegations of horse-trading could not justify the imposition of President’s rule or stop the floor test.

The Centre had imposed President’s rule in Uttarakhand on March 27, a day before the floor test was to be held originally.

On the matter of the disqualification of the nine rebel Congress MLAs, Singhvi said the court did not set it aside and a final decision will come later.

What happened

The political crisis in Uttarakhand began on March 18 after nine Congress MLAs voted with the BJP against the Appropriation Bill, which Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal then declared as passed, ignoring demands from some MLAs for a division of votes.

Kunjwal then issued notices to the nine rebel Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law seeking their response to why they should not be disqualified.

Even as news of their alleged disqualification spread, the Union Cabinet met on the night of March 26 to consider Paul’s report, which discussed the breakdown in governance in the state and expressed apprehensions of likely pandemonium in the Assembly during the floor test on March 28.

The Cabinet then recommended to President Pranab Mukherjee to bring the state under his rule by invoking Article 356 of the Constitution, which he signed on Sunday.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley justified the imposition of President’s rule, saying the Congress “plunged the State into a serious constitutional crisis by continuing a Government which should have quit after the failure of the Appropriation Bill”.

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice T. S. Thakur and Justices R. Banumathi and U. U. Lalit has said it will hear a public interest litigation challenging the imposition of President’s rule in the state next week.